July 31, 2006

A summertime question for acquarello.

Toute une nuit Strictly Film School remains my favorite name for a site; all the better, the site lives up to it as well. The depth and breadth of acquarello's knowledge of and insight into film has intrigued and stimulated me and countless other readers for years now. My question for acquarello: "Dinner and a movie: What match-up would make for a perfect summer evening?"

My selection for a summer evening dinner and a movie would be to watch Chantal Akerman's city symphony, Toute une nuit accompanied by a selection of assorted tapas. The film takes place on any given night in summertime Brussels and consists of a series of fragmented, self-encapsulated quotidian encounters or missed opportunities that, in turn, reflect the essential moments that happen within all human relationships. When presented together, the entire collage becomes a far richer portrait of longing, desire, and connection than any single vignette could ever capture. Tapas are like that too; they're diverse, brief tastes of something - each made more precious and concentrated by their small portions - that make the collective experience seem that much more savory, complex, and satisfying.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:46 PM | Comments (9)

July 30, 2006

A summertime question for Alison Willmore.

One of the primary sources of quick and witty takes on all things newsy and filmic is the IFC Blog maintained by Alison Willmore. My question for Alison: "What movie puts you in a New York state of mind?"

The cinematic mash note to New York is almost a genre to itself - and one hell of a genre. Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Spike Lee, Sidney Lumet and countless others have illuminated distinct and vivid celluloid visions of the city that seem almost impossible to reconcile. New York may be the irresistible backdrop of a thousand stories, but it's also a subject that eludes even the widest-angle lens - it's better caught in small pieces, sidelong glances and the occasional dazzling cityscape.

The Royal Tenebaums

What I love about The Royal Tenenbaums is that it summons the New York of the eventual transplant. Wes Anderson depicts New York the way Kafka envisioned an America he'd never seen, but valiantly divined from travel brochures and visitors' anecdotes. For Anderson, his bible is The New Yorker, and what he extracts from it is a somewhat fuzzy, quietly fantastical version of the Upper East Side - one with a 375th Street Y, omnipresent and semi-official gypsy cabs, empty and windswept streets, and a slightly shabby academic aristocracy in which everyone seems to have a book deal. It's a naïve and unaccountably melancholy portrait, an wistful daydream of the city that's stayed with me long after I saw the real thing.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:15 AM | Comments (15)

July 29, 2006

A summertime question for Ray Pride.

Ray Pride takes strikingly gorgeous photographs (click his name and follow those links), though you probably know him best for his reviews and interviews for Movie City News and for his blog, Movie City Indie. I'm very glad I asked him: "If you hadn't become a film critic, what might have happened instead?"

The 400 Blows I grew up on a couple-acre patch of green amid rolling farmland in the west of Kentucky - I spent 18 years there one week, the tired joke goes - and didn't grow up with movies. I grew up among people. People who talked. And talked. Stories were everywhere. Histories were spoken aloud. Women and men in their eighties and nineties who had sat on the lap of Civil War veterans when they were small. Legacies were alive. Everyone knows and trusts implicitly the basic, indispensable relationships and alliances and mutual associations in a town of a thousand. You're forced to, through fires, floods, illness, economic slumps. Cemeteries were filled with the names of people you knew who were the successors of the passed. A dozen identical headstones would answer to the same name.

One night, young, I saw both Nashville on a big screen and The 400 Blows, uncut, Janus Films logo and all, on late night TV. And that was it. There was a path in the darkness ahead, like through the thicket across the way. Many movies followed. Many places followed. Jobs with stories all their own, waiting to be retold. Stories - movies - still hold weight for me in the smaller, smallest details. Things like the way someone speaks, with intonation and with his or her hands and body. The light flickering in their eyes as they recollect. A woman's hair in the breeze. Afternoon light falling across a patterned carpet. The haphazard, cumulative details of a distant urban alleyway (especially signed in an unfamiliar idiom). How a man looks at a woman; how a woman looks at a man. (Truffaut described similar vivid details as "privileged moments.") I can't imagine how my personal history, my work and travels before doing what I do now, could have led to anything other than fixing onto how stories are constructed, stories that capture the weight of community, that are oral histories widened to the scale of myth, and of landscapes, even unpopulated - especially unpopulated - that are dreams in and of themselves.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:43 AM | Comments (1)

July 28, 2006

Interview. Tommy Pallotta: Substance PKD

Up now on GreenCine proper, Jonathan Marlow's short but sweet interview with Tommy Pallotta, producer of Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly.

Keanu Darkly
How did you and Richard Linklater settle on A Scanner Darkly?

We started to work on Ubik, but A Scanner Darkly really quickly became the obvious choice. It was PKD's most personal novel and it seemed to speak to us on a very personal level. I felt that it best suited Rick's directing style.

Posted by cphillips at 2:00 PM | Comments (1)

A summertime question for the cinetrix.

Readers of pullquote know the cinetrix as one of the most entertaining film bloggers out there. Observations on films are often laced with more than a few zingers and an ever-so-slight peek at what's going on offline. So I had to ask: "What actor/actress has come closest to depicting a moment in your own life?"

Raiders of the Lost Ark Two come to mind, and for different reasons. The first is aspirational, to be sure, and you can all just stifle your snorts of disbelief and muttered Get a load of hers right now: Karen Allen's Marion in Raiders of the Lost Ark in the drinking contest in her Tibetan bar. Her mouthy model led me to spend my callow youth cracking wise and throwing back shots with the gents, although my results, not surprisingly, often varied. Oh, and there was no pirate ship. More's the pity.

The second is Catherine Keener's Amelia in Walking and Talking. Again, I don't presume for a moment that I look like Keener. But her lonely third-wheel editor who fears losing her friend Laura to marriage and so tumbles into a relationship with the "ugly guy" at the video store so perfectly captured two distinct, painful moments in my own life that when I finished watching it, I immediately rewound it and watched it again. Plus, there's that great Billy Bragg soundtrack.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:42 AM

July 27, 2006

A summertime question for Cinema Strikes Back.

David Austin just might have inadvertently written the terrific site's new motto: "Coming from a genre and cult standpoint, Cinema Strikes Back. I was lucky enough to meet Blake, collector and preserver of classic cult movie images, in Austin. My question for CSB: "What's the DVD release of the year so far? What do we most desperately need still?"

David Austin:

Tarkan was 2005, as was Ran.

The Emilio Miraglia Killer Queen Box Set Coming from a genre and cult standpoint, avoiding obvious big releases like the original King Kong, I think Fox's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and Discotek's Electric Dragon 80,000 Volts are the best packages so far. Both are films that had been absent from Region 1 DVD for far too long, both are great movies, and both were treated with consummate respect, given beautiful transfers and provided with an interesting variety of extras. Anchor Bay's Cemetery Man and NoShame's The Emilio Miraglia Killer Queen Box Set are close seconds, the first being a decent treament of an outstanding movie, the second being outstanding treatment of a couple of fun movies. Runners-up include Mondo Macabro's Virgins from Hell with an entire reel of Indonesian trailers, and Miramax's long-awaited release of Delicatessen. Looking to the future, I am most excited about Classic Media's Godzilla megaset, which will finally make the original epic (along with many of its fun descendants) available in the US, Universal's Double Indemnity special edition, and Mondo Macabro's Bollywood Horror Collection.

The Exterminating Angel This year saw the release of many films that I had long awaited on DVD, but there are a lot out there that still need a good Region 1 release. First, as of yet, none of the clever, clockwork films of Sabu have crossed over from Japan to US DVD, including the wonderful Postman Blues and Drive. Luis Buñuel's filmography, despite the efforts of Criterion, still has substantial gaps, including The Exterminating Angel and Simon of the Desert. Don Coscarelli's action-packed sequels to Phantasm are still missing, as is Stuart Gordon's icky From Beyond. As for martial arts, Chang Cheh's insane Five Element Ninja, Sammo Hung's intense Pedicab Driver, and three King Hu masterpieces, each as good as the next, are still unavailable, Raining in the Mountain, A Touch of Zen and Dragon Gate Inn. And finally, two satirical gangster films, from Japan and Russia respectively, Juzo Itami's Minbo and Aleksei Balabanov's Brat (aka Brother).

Blake:

Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party - If there is a singular most important release this year it is for this film. The power of the Internet allows it to breath to live and find an audience. Where do the films without distribution go? Hopefully instead of completely vanishing, we as fans of cinema can still find and buy them online. One of the most simple and touching films of all time is Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party. This is actually a film that has the power to move even Paris Hilton.

Faust - If you chart love and effort put into a DVD, then this Masters of Cinema release stands out as the best along with Dazed and Confused (Criterion). Everyone is aware of Dazed, but how many have bought Faust? This is a must own. The film is presented in amazing fashion and no detail in the extras or packaging is left to chance. You pick up this DVD and you can just feel the passion from the people that wanted you to have it. They sold their grandma's into slavery, their dogs to the meat market... you just know they did everything they could to make this hands down the most rocking release of this film of all time. [Note: The American release from Kino is available here.]

Upcoming DVD Releases I can't wait to own:

Air Guitar Nation (2006); LOL (2006). Air Guitar for its sheer amount of outright fun. LOL because it so far has left every Hollywood romantic release this year in its dust. It has no money or stars and is better than every Hollywood release I've seen this year.

Films That Should Be on DVD:

Pretty Maids All in a Row Pretty Maids All in a Row - Chilly winds have blown on this film's chances for a DVD release. If ever there was a film that could dethrone Rocky Horror on the midnight circuit, this is it. Rock Hudson wants women more than Bill Clinton in this film which boasts a funky collaboration between Roger Vadim and... who else but Gene Roddenberry. Also starring the diverse casting of Angie Dickinson, Telly Savalas, Roddy McDowall, James Doohan, Barbara Leigh and Margaret Markov. All at once, it is, as Tarantino says, "Vadim's love letter to American girls," but so much more than that. It is the Star Wars: A New Hope of coming-of-age films. You won't ever take it home to mom, but you darn sure will never grow tired of watching it and constantly showing it off to friends, lovers and film addicts.

Fear is the Key (1972) - Ben Kingsley has hair and Barry Newman is at his finest in this film featuring one of the wildest car chases and most rousing endings I've ever seen. This is a great thriller that fell through the cracks and has yet to be discovered by many out there.

The Burglar (1957) - Paul Wendkos noir that is so unusual that it makes unusual as cool as Pulp Fiction wallets.

Jeff:

I was thrilled that Princess Raccoon was finally released this year. Other possible candidates: Election/Election 2, 3 Dev Adam, Tarkan, Warner Bros boxsets.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:40 AM | Comments (2)

July 26, 2006

A summertime question for Susan Gerhard.

Way back in 2002, we had plans. We were going to interview a slew of critics. Well, one thing led to another - primers, a coupla articles, a blog - and I only got around to two (others would pick up the ball, as when Jennie Rose talked with B Ruby Rich). But for starters, I think I did pretty damn well, choice-wise: Jonathan Rosenbaum and Susan Gerhard. Susan's now editing the excellent SF360, co-published by the San Francisco Film Society and indieWIRE, and my question for her is: "What's the best vacation to be had via DVD player?"

Battle in Heaven

Maybe it's because I believe you can't really call it a vacation until you've survived at least a few moments of murderous frustration and intense alienation (see also: air travel) that I have to pick Carlos Reygadas' Battle in Heaven as the best vacation to be had via DVD player. You don't get that hard-won holiday improvement in personal outlook without surviving some bumpy mental "transitions" along the way. With only two films, Reygadas has developed a reputation for original location-shooting amongst the clichés of the scenic - riffing off the most cloyingly beautiful of landscapes (rural in Japón and urban in Battle in Heaven) with plenty of psychic breakdowns and unexpected sexual twists from the human (and, yes, animal) worlds.

Against the possibly familiar-to-many Battle in Heaven backdrops, including the pilgrimage to Mexico City's Basilica de Guadalupe and flag-guard rituals at the Palacio Nacional, Reygadas deposits a soundscape that takes audiences inside the deteriorating margins of one man's brain. Reygadas's jarring shifts in sound/sanity perspectives - from what I recall as blaring brass to noxious conversation to the white-noise of street traffic to pilgrim chants to notable silences - are a fascinating contrast to the film's patient, frequently still camera, which often photographs characters stunned into immobility in the most public of places.

Like the best and worst of vacations, Battle in Heaven is filled with unpredictabilities. But along with night sweats and roads that go nowhere, it offers a story that - as with its incredible views - kind of dares you to look away.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:35 AM | Comments (3)

July 25, 2006

DVDs, 7/25.

DK Holm follows up on his previous column with a roundup of takes on Bogie, more James Bond for the Brits, and a new Criterion release worth rejoicing about.

canterbury.jpg

The real gem among the July 25th R1 DVDs is undoubtedly Criterion's release of A Canterbury Tale. DSH at DVDJournal says of the 1944 release, "Some films survive the passage of time even if they were made with modernity in mind, and the aching belief in the better things in life transcends this Powell and Pressburger film beyond its wartime origins, making it the best thing that can be found on DVD: The lost masterpiece."

Jon Danziger at DigitallyObsessed found the film equally enchanting, noting that the "stirring conclusion to the film demonstrates somewhat surprisingly just how cumulatively powerful the movie has been."

The New York Times' Dave Kehr observes that A Canterbury Tale is "ostensibly a propaganda piece made to promote friendship and understanding between the wary British and the unruly American servicemen who were their wartime guests. But, as always with Powell, a strong streak of perversity and an irrepressible poetic spirit keep nudging A Canterbury Tale down unexpected paths."

The DVD Journal also takes on Bogie & Bacall: The Signature Collection from Warner Bros., consisting of The Big Sleep, Key Largo, To Have and Have Not, and Dark Passage. Of the latter, the DVDJournal's DSH has a hard time finding something nice to say, eventually noting that "it's apparent that the movie has a fan in Frank Darabont — the endings of this and The Shawshank Redemption have some parallels." About the best thing that DSH can say is that the most notable extras is the Friz Freleng-directed 'toon Slick Hare. "It's one of the fabulous Looney Tunes that features numerous celebrity parodies, with the main one being Bogey himself."

Open_City.jpg

DVDTimes's Noel Megahey focuses on Marcello Pagliero's 1944 Roma cittá libera (Rome, Free City), released in R1 by Italian film specialists NoShame. Not quite neorealism, not quite noir, the film still pleases Megahey thanks to the presence of Vittorio de Sica as a amnesia stricken pol wandering the streets. "I don't know if there is any political allegory in his circumstances, but he remains a fascinating presence in the film, adding something elusive, dignified and honest to the scenes he is in — a poetic quality that is at odds with the gambling dens and deserted nightclubs. De Sica's performance is marvellous then and the principal pleasure of the film."

Also at DVDTimes, Gary Couzens examines Optimum's R2 The Louis Malle Collection: Volume 1. Consisting of Ascenseur pour l'échafaud, Le feu follet, Les amants, Zazie dans le Métro, it is a companion to, or competitor with, Criterion's recent box set of autobiographical Malle films. Couzens concludes that "Malle is probably less an 'auteur' than some of his contemporaries, preferring not to impose a signature style on his work but to adapt his style and technique to different subject matter in a variety of genres. That's not to say that his works are impersonal: working generally in commercial cinema he was in Martin Scorsese's phrase a 'smuggler', bringing his own perspective in under cover of whichever genre he was working in. And the proof is that he made some very fine films (and certainly some duds) over a forty-year career. Not all of these four early features are great but all have plenty of interest and they are generally presented well."

At DVDTalk, Randy Miller III catches up with Stuart Sutcliffe: The Lost Beatle, Kultur's contribution to recent Beatlemania. Miller seeks out the gossip, noting that Sutcliffe's sister, Pauline Sutcliffe "hints at a fight with Lennon that resulted in a head injury that could've led to Stuart's later health problems. Other participants also suggest a more intimate relationship between the two young Beatles, but it's hardly a trashy tell-all. More than anything, The Lost Beatle offers a poignant look at a talented young man and the choices he made during his lifetime." Miller points out that the disc has but one feature but a helpful one, a gallery of Sutcliffe's art.

In a confessional review (is there any other kind on the 'Net?), also at DVD Talk, Holly Beeman lauds Korean director Woo-cheol Lee's work on Cello for his attempt "to break away from the stereotypical Asian horror film (of which there are many) in his debut largely by mixing in the element of drama and making the things we hold most dear to us seem frightful in a way we wouldn't normally imagine. An admirable attempt, Cello does come off as a unique addition to the ever-growing genre, but unfortunately, it also has its fair share of faults."

Gabriel Powers at DVDActive is less patient with the film. "Seriously, enough with the white faced, black-haired ghost girls. Enough. I'm done with them. There has to be some other scary image the world's filmmakers can use for ghost stories. If you hadn't guessed it yet, Cello is yet another entry in the genre that if water could fill five Pacific oceans."

Turning to the Amicus Collection of three reissues from Dark Sky Films, Matt Joseph, also of DVDActive, finds The Beast Must Die to be a "strange mixture of blaxploitation action and horror with a smidgeon of Agatha Christie thrown in for good measure," and though it "never quite gels" it's "an enjoyable romp." Joseph also found Amicus's And Now the Screaming Starts! "as good as any of rival studio Hammer Films' gothic horror pictures," but in the end preferred Asylum over all of them, while also praising the new transfers as superior to their predecessors.

Rich Rosell at Digitally Obsessed, though, was much less enthralled, at least with 1974's The Beast Must Die, a "gimmicky werewolf melding of The Most Dangerous Game and just about any English murder mystery also utilizes something called a 'werewolf break,' in which the film stops dead with about ten minutes left and asks viewers to try and predict who the lycanthrope really is." Among other sins, Rosell notes that director Paul Annett used no special effects for his werewolf, but rather "an Alsatian Wolfhound — essentially, Annett is forced to use is an oversized dog as his main monster."

bondrussia.jpg

Finally, the DVD Savant (Glenn Erickson) helps solve an age old mystery about From Russia With Love — what was cut out of the last scene as Bond and Tania drift along in a gondola. Bond is shown looking at the 8mm footage of their lovemaking, and says "He was right, you know." Then there is an obvious cut. With the aid of a reader named Gavin Salkeld of GNCFilms, Erickson can report the mystery solved. Salkeld wrote to tell Erickson that by consulting the BBFC's files he came upon a list of cuts. No. 13 reads thus: "Bond's repeat of Red Grant's quip [also cut, hence the deletion here], 'What a performance!' as he examines the film reel in the Gondola, has been cut." Mystery solved.

In related news, Gary Tooze at DVDBeaver gets all VideoWatchdoggy on us, comparing the R2 MGM of From Russia With Love with last week's R2 Ultimate Edition, and finds that the UltEd "blows [MGM's R1] away in all areas. What a treat to see in in 1.66 with such strong clarity and sound." [ed. note: We expect to see similar re-issues here in the States around the time the new Bond film comes out this year.]

Update: Eric Kohn, in the NY Press, gives his take on the "lost episodes" of Ren & Stimpy.

Posted by cphillips at 5:23 PM | Comments (3)

A summertime question for Wiley Wiggins.

Wiley Wiggins is best known among film fans for his performances in Dazed and Confused and Waking Life. But he's best known among online prowlers for News of the Dead, where he points to the most fascinating finds, film-related or not. My question for Wiley: "Got a favorite soundtrack?"

Morvern Callar

While I'm tempted to pick a film with a highly affecting but subtle original score like Solaris or Code 46, I have to stick with Morvern Callar for the unique way in which the soundtrack works as an actual character in the film. Morvern's dead boyfriend haunts the landscapes of the movie through the Christmas day mix tape he left for her. It also doesn't hurt that he had pretty good taste in music.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:34 AM | Comments (8)

July 24, 2006

A summertime question for Twitch's Todd.

Any fan of Asian cinema, the artsiest of horror, the undeservedly unheralded Europeans or the forefront of animation, knows that Twitch is absolutely indispensable. I just had to ask Todd: "What's the Twitchiest movie to appear so far this year?"

Invisible Waves God, that's a hard call just because we're so eclectic and there's so much out there that I haven't had the chance to see yet. I have a hunch that the correct answer will prove to be Pen-Ek Ratanaruang's Invisible Waves - with The Host and maybe Severance giving it a run - thanks to the intersection of smarts, style and cult coolness. Plus, I just love Pen-Ek.

Of what I have seen, I've been greatly impressed by Satoshi Kon's Paprika, which I managed to score an advance screener of. Kon's an odd figure in that he's an animator who will likely never be known for his animation, but his stories are just fantastic, and this finds him mining the mind-bending, nature of reality stuff - with darkly sexual undertones - that he does better than pretty much anyone else.

Also in the darkly sexual arena, Pal Sletaune's Naboer is just a lean, fierce piece of work that absolutely blew me away. Bit of Polanski, bit of Hitchcock, bit of Lynch, all packed into a 75-minute runtime. Not a scrap of waste to be found in this psycho-sexual thriller, and even if you see what's coming, Sletaune executes it so well that it just doesn't matter.

Japanese omnibus film Rampo Noir is pretty stunning as well, an adaptation of four stories by Edogawa Rampo, all of them starring Tadanobu Asano. This will probably end up classed as a horror film because of its overall oddness, but it isn't really - it's something all it's own. Frequently grotesque and gothic, yes, but horror? Not really. As with all omnibus films, it's a little bit uneven, but I though the opening and closing pieces, in particular, were just spectacular.

There's lots of other stuff I'm looking forward to, but I think those are the winners so far.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:13 AM | Comments (2)

July 23, 2006

A summertime question for Doug Cummings.

Even obsessive link-mongers need a break every now and then. Over the next two weeks or so, while I'm frolicking in the Adriatic with my family, the Daily belongs to friends, old and new. First, though, a quick note about upcoming blogathons: Brendon Connelly has called for a Terry Gilliam blogathon for August 4; before that, on August 2, the Avant-Garde blogathon Girish has called, which I'll have an entry for as well.

Now then. It was a whirlwind idea, popping up at the last minute and turning into a sort of 24-hour project, and I'm deeply grateful for the amazing, rapid-fire responses you'll be seeing in the coming days. Off-the-top-of-the-head questions, summertime questions, some linked all but randomly with names I thought it would be fun hearing from, some a little more purposely matched. We begin with Doug Cummings, whose entries at filmjourney.org are always worth waiting for; and in the meantime, there's always that substantive discussion going on. My question for Doug: "What film says 'Los Angeles' more than any other?"

Los Angeles Plays Itself

My answer is both a no-brainer and a cheat: Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003), Thom Andersen's three-hour essay film (sorely in need of DVD distribution) about how the real Los Angeles is distorted, substituted, and ignored by the Hollywood industry. Its very subject is how films describe the City of Angels and it uses over a hundred film clips to make its case.

I've seen the movie a number of times, but the most memorable was a public screening at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences last fall, where it was paired with New Yorker Sarah Morris's 26-minute Los Angeles (2004), a film that visually meditates on the rich and famous and their hermetically-sealed world of glitz and glamour.

The screening audience, typically sedate, erupted in anger during the Q&A with Morris: "Why do you call this film Los Angeles when all you show is Hollywood?" they demanded. Morris's blithe, outsider's response ("whether you like it or not, this is a part of your city") only added insult to injury.

Morris's film, however, galvanized the audience for Andersen's film. "This is the city: Los Angeles, California," Thom Andersen's narration begins. "They make movies here. I live here. Sometimes I think that gives me the right to criticize the way movies depict my city." The audience cheered.

Los Angeles Plays Itself

Of course, Los Angeles is a highly multi-cultural and diverse city where only one out of forty work in the entertainment industry, and Andersen, an acclaimed documentarian who teaches at CalArts, criticizes the movies' disproportionate focus on Tinsel Town. Andersen finds solace in "neorealistic" works like Kent MacKenzie's The Exiles (1961), Gregory Nava's 1983 film, El Norte (recently championed by Monte Hellman at the Los Angeles Film Festival), and the new wave of black filmmaking from UCLA that included Haile Gerima's Bush Mama (1979), Billy Woodberry's Bless Their Little Hearts (1984) and Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep (1974), which Milestone Video still plans to release on DVD later this year. (Nelson Kim's overview of Burnett's career for Senses of Cinema quotes the filmmaker: "I was one of the Teacher Assistants in that [UCLA] group and the objective was to get people of color to tell stories about their community. A lot of positive things came out of it. All the people attending the course were there making films in response to false and negative images that Hollywood films were promoting.")

Los Angeles Plays Itself

Los Angeles Plays Itself contrasts these films with Hollywood productions - those by "high tourist" directors (Antonioni, Demy, Warhol) and "low tourist" directors (Hitchcock, Polanski, Allen), film noir (Kiss Me Deadly) and futuresque (Blade Runner), with a focus on real locations and architecture.

But I've lived in Los Angeles for six years, four of them without a car - contrary to popular notions, it can be done - and tooling around the city on my bicycle introduced me to the rich Armenian, Mexican, Thai, Chinese, and Persian communities in my general vicinity. Like many residents here, it's impossible for me to think of the city and not think of its thriving patchwork of working class, ethnic villages. Andersen's film is a wonderful tribute, both to them and the invigorating films that reveal them.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:15 AM | Comments (10)

July 22, 2006

Jack Warden, 1920 - 2006.

Jack Warden
Jack Warden, an Emmy-winning and Academy Award-nominated actor who played gruff cops, coaches and soldiers in a career that spanned five decades, has died. He was 85.

Robert Jablon for the AP.

Jack Warden was always one of my favorite character actors... He also was incredibly prolific, both in film and television, winning an Emmy for his role as George Halas in the landmark television movie Brian's Song, two other nominations for his lead role in the series Crazy Like a Fox and Oscar nominations for two films with Warren Beatty: 1975's Shampoo and 1978's Heaven Can Wait. He will be missed, so I offer this brief look at some of his many acting highlights.

Edward Copeland.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:35 AM

Interview. Amos Gitai.

Amos Gitai "How do you feel about what's happening in Israel as we speak, with the bombing of Lebanon?" Caveh Zahedi asks Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai in our latest interview. "I think it's very disturbing," Gitai replies. "I think that the solution to the conflict already exists and I think all this ongoing conflict is a great waste of life."

Which naturally leads to, "When you say that the solution to the conflict already exists, what are you referring to exactly?" Answer: "I'm saying that both sides already know what it should be like. We just need the political courage to make it."

Tomorrow, the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival will present the the 2006 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival Freedom of Expression Award to Amos Gitai.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:17 AM | Comments (1)

July 21, 2006

JFF and an open letter.

"Despite CNN's reports that all Israelis back the military's incursions," writes Howard Feinstein in a report for indieWIRE on the Jerusalem Film Festival, "most of the artistic and intellectual elite who converged upon Jerusalem for the event balked at what they perceived as Israeli overreaction. Fittingly, a significant number of Israeli documentaries - the nation's cinematic strong suit - challenged the government on a number of issues, particularly its treatment of Palestinians. I don't think it was accidental that these were the best docs screened."

Jerusalem Film Festival

Feinstein was a documentary juror and describes how filmmakers and attendees reacted as the war rapidly unfolded between the opening and closing of the fest (July 6 through 15).

Arab Film Biennial

What follows, and continues after the jump, is a letter to Palestinian and Lebanese filmmakers from 40 Israeli filmmakers (and naturally, not every Israeli filmmaker will agree its message) to coincide with the opening of the Arab Film Biennial in Paris on July 22:

We, the undersigned Israeli filmmakers, greet the Arab filmmakers who have gathered in Paris for the Arab Film Biennial. Through you, we wish to convey a message of camaraderie and solidarity with our Lebanese and Palestinian colleagues who are currently besieged and bombarded by our country's army.

We unequivocally oppose the brutality and cruelty of Israeli policy, which has reached new heights in recent weeks. Nothing justifies the continued occupation, closure, and oppression in Palestine. Nothing justifies the bombing of civilians and the destruction of infrastructures in Lebanon and Gaza.

Allow us to tell you that your films, which we try to see and circulate among us, are extremely important in our eyes. They enable us to know and understand you better. Thanks to these films, the men, women, and children who suffer in Gaza, Beirut, and everywhere else our army exercises its violence - have names and faces. We would like to thank you and encourage you to keep on filming, despite the difficulties.

For our part, we will continue to express through our films, with our raised voices, and in our personal actions our vehement opposition to the occupation, and we will continue to express our desire for freedom, justice, and equality among all the peoples of the region.

Nurith Aviv / Ilil Alexander / Adi Arbel  / Yael Bartana / Philippe Bellaiche / Simone Bitton / Michale BoganimAmit Breuer / Shai Carmeli-Pollack / Sami S Chetrit / Danae Elon / Anat Even / Jack Faber / Avner Fainguelernt / Ari Folman / Gali Gold / BZ Goldberg / Sharon Hamou / Amir Harel / Avraham Heffner / Rachel Leah Jones / Dalia Karpel / Avi Kleinberger / Elonor Kowarsky / Edna Kowarsky / Philippa Kowarsky / Ram Loevi  / Avi Mograbi / Jud Neeman / David Ofek / Iris Rubin / Abraham Segal / Nurith Shareth  / Julie Shlez / Eyal Sivan / Yael Shavit / Eran Torbiner / Osnat Trabelsi / Daniel Waxman / Keren Yedaya

Posted by dwhudson at 1:07 PM | Comments (5)

Interview. Clerks II.

Clerks and Clerks II With Sean Axmaker's night-and-the-following-day interview with Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson, the Dante and Randal of both Clerks and Clerks II, we leave off updating this entry and pick it back up again here.

"[W]hat makes Clerks II both winning and (somewhat unexpectedly) moving is its fidelity to the original Clerks ethic of hanging out, talking trash and refusing all worldly ambition," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "If anything, the sequel is more defiant in its disdain for the rat race, elevating the white-guy-doing-nothing prerogative from a lifestyle choice to a moral principle."

"Is it cosy Gen X nostalgia gone mad?" Nope, decides Kevin Maher in the London Times, "Clerks II is not just some haphazard retreat from failure. It is, instead, a bold and essential move for [Kevin] Smith's career."

The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips: "While the sequel cannot match the original, it's important to remember: The original really was original, a remembrance of things not long past and an evocation of how some of us yakked and daydreamed and spent a misspent young adulthood."

The Stranger's Andrew Wright: "Smith's calculated return to his roots feels, for the most part, like a pre-moldy artifact that has lost most of its freshness or shock value in the era of YouTube and message boards."

Update: Ray Pride introduces the hell out of quite a conversation: "Almost 7,000 loquacious effing words from Kevin Smith about Clerks II and his adventures into growing up, 'interspecies erotica'; how his movie got an R rating on the first pass and why it shouldn't have; how strange it is to share the MGM logo with The Wizard of Oz; the origins of a sexual practice graphically described in the movie, shorthanded as 'ATM'; the story of 'Oh!'; and the famous man who doesn't get Silence of the Lambs references. Swearing, graphic sexual language, and Weinstein Company financial strategies follow, along with third act spoilers."

Update, 7/27: Kevin Smith is bloggin' mad and not gonna take it anymore - now he's irked with an LA Weekly writer.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:55 AM

July 20, 2006

Shorts, 7/20.

My Country, My Country The Economist sketches an evolution of Iraq documentaries: "Last year two American-produced films, Gunner Palace and the excellent Occupation Dreamland, treated the bewildering experience of American soldiers stumbling into the difficulties of the war's first year." From the crop currently making the rounds, the weekly singles out Iraq in Fragments, My Country, My Country and The Blood of My Brother, whose aim is "to shed light on Iraqis' experience of life after the fall of Saddam Hussein... Each of these films is influenced by the vérité style to the extent that the film-makers seek to disappear from the stories they tell." And the Economist explains why "this season's films may not only be the first but also the last of their particular kind to appear for some time."

"[T]he Iraq conflict [is] emerging as the first YouTube war," writes Ana Marie Cox in Time. "Critics of the mainstream media's war coverage might hope that the soldier's unmediated view would be a more positive one.... By that logic, putting cameras in the hands of those soldiers on the ground should provide enough celebration for an 'Up with Iraq' musical. There's music in a lot of the soldiers' videos, but precious little uplift." Via Jon Lebkowsky.

"The great abiding tradition in American entertainment is enemies. They gotta have them." Bruce Robinson, who'll be adapting Hunter S Thompson's novel The Rum Diary, starring Johnny Depp, chats with Stop Smiling's JC Gabel.

"As in the films of Andrew Bujalski..." There's an opener we'll probably be seeing frequently in the coming years. At any rate, Nick Schager, please continue: "...The Puffy Chair's characters inhabit a self-contained universe of solipsism, their every conversation and undertaking an act of juvenile egomania in which maturely confronting the world is avoided."

Dr Mabuse, der Spieler Also in Slant, Keith Uhlich: "As played by Rudolf Klein-Rogge in Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou's two-part adaptation of the Norbert Jacques novel, Mabuse is a true bogeyman, a hollow shell of surface tics with a terrifying dead-eyed stare.... This Mabuse has only pretensions to myth." Related: Susan King in the Los Angeles Times and, at the main site, I posted a piece on Dr Mabuse, the Gambler the other day.

Anyone who's ever needed the quick, and I mean, quick lowdown, the straight-up need-to-know on a movie of, let's say, a certain age, knows to go to the Movie Review Query Engine and hope that a search turns up another gem of a blurb from Dave Kehr from his days at the Chicago Reader. At his blog, he's recently been giving himself a tad more breathing room and doing something similar with predictably wonderful results. The latest viewings: Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye and Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire.

In an appreciation of Rebecca in the London Review of Books, and particularly of the new print that's been struck, Michael Wood singles out a single sequence: "It is a kind of visual fairytale and one very much of Hitchcock's making. It is the story of the ogre and the little girl, where she loves him because he may kill her, and he accepts her (and doesn't kill her) because he loves her fear. That's why they can live happily ever after - as long as she doesn't recognise the Gothic mansion of his appetite for what it is."

The Committee At Flickhead, Ray Young recommends The Committee, "an original and often fascinating parable about independence, conformity, free thinking, and orthodoxy at war within the individual and his place in society. Given some time and enough exposure, it could eventually be acknowledged as one of the key films of the Sixties."

David Poland is profoundly moved by World Trade Center.

Jeffrey Wells points to reviews of Woody Allen's Scoop: Todd McCarthy in Variety and Kirk Honeycutt in the Hollywood Reporter. So far, not so good, but you probably guessed that when you saw the trailer. Commentary: That Little Round-Headed Boy. Update: Keith Uhlich, rather scathingly, in Slant.

Reminder: Jim Emerson's outstanding "Open Shots Project" rolls on.

"[T]he discrepancy between what critics think and how the public behaves is of perennial interest because it throws into relief some basic questions about taste, economics and the nature of popular entertainment, as well as the more vexing issue of what, exactly, critics are for," writes AO Scott. Commentary: Jim Emerson, Chuck Tryon and Peet Gelderblom. Update: And Richard von Busack in the Metro Silicon Valley.

Also in the New York Times: Sarah Lyall talks with Alex Pettyfer about his role in Stormbreaker, the first adaptation of a book from Anthony Horowitz's popular adventure series (more from Aida Edemariam in the Guardian).

Mad Cowgirl And Nathan Lee: "A demented jag of blasphemy, multicultural weirdness, splatter-movie tropes and inchoate meat metaphors, Mad Cowgirl is an underground movie with little sense of grounding; the point is an aggressive pointlessness." More from Matt Singer in the Voice.

"Thirty years of living and breathing the wondrous, horrifying, inspiring, and transcendent images that Steven Spielberg has given us all came to a pinnacle for me as I was introduced to Mr Spielberg as Steven from SpielbergFilms.com." A fun conversation follows. Via Mark Beall at Cinematical.

Christopher Orr for the New Republic: "[W]atching The Matador it's hard to escape the sense that what has been missing from 007 all these years is not just masculinity, but a whiff of masculine sleaze, a hint that under all those immaculate suits there lies a truly dirty mind."

"NBC has signed Spike Lee to develop a new drama series," reports Ben Grossman for Broadcasting & Cable. Via Fimoculous.

Babylon Heights Irvine Welsh tells the story behind Babylon Heights, the play he's written with screenwriting partner Dean Cavanagh which "focuses on the performers in The Wizard of Oz... There is an old myth that in the film's original print, during the Tin Woodsman scene, the small shadowed figure you can see is actually a dead munchkin hanging from a tree. The official line was that it was a dead bird. Our starting point was to take this myth as a reality."

Also in the Guardian: Franco Zeffirelli issued a call to Fiorentina fans for a massive show of civil disobedience "as a protest against punishments meted out to their club by a tribunal set up to judge claims of match-fixing," reports John Hooper. Thousands responded. Plus: seven online viewing tips from Kate Stables and, good grief, three obits: Michael Chanan on Fabián Bielinsky, Ronald Bergan on Gyorgy Illes and ACH Smith on Michael Croucher.

BBC: "India's ruling Congress party has threatened legal action to stop a film being made about the life of party president, Sonia Gandhi." The project is Jagmohan Mundhra's; he's been trying to get Monica Bellucci to play the lead.

Yuhn Myikuk laughs off Arang at Koreanfilm.org. Meanwhile, nationalism is a hit at the box office in South Korea; Han Cinema runs a report by Kim Tae-jong.

Salon's Andrew O'Hehir tells you best what he's going to tell you:

13

Gela Babluani's 13 Tzameti is a sweaty, stylized thriller that's half machismo and half arty posturing. Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe's rock 'n' roll fantasy Brothers of the Head, on the other hand, is an unexpected delight, a fable about 70s rock that avoids the customary clichés and makes its freak-show characters seem real.

Heather Lyn MacDonald's documentary Been Rich All My Life captures the irresistible saga of the Silver Belles, a troupe of former Harlem chorus girls, now in their 80s and 90s. Inevitably this film will be called the Ballets Russes of the African-American tap-dance tradition, so let me be the first (or perhaps the second or third [more from Melissa Levine in the Voice]). Finally, we have the long-awaited rerelease of the 1952 French swashbuckler Fanfan la Tulipe, an overcaffeinated classic belonging to a school of cinema that is, perhaps mercifully, gone forever.

In a thinning Voice (Update: Anthony Kaufman), you'll find Dennis Lim on Shadowboxer, "a garish, flaming wreck of a movie" (Lola Ogunnaike profiles producer Lee Daniels in the NYT; Update: more from Jay Antani in Slant), and the "Tracking Shots": Michael Atkinson on Azumi (more from Nick Schager at Slant), Jim Ridley on Boys Briefs 4 and Drew Tillman on The Beales of Grey Gardens.

Joe Bowman: "I commended Olivier Assayas's Clean for its unsentimental intimacy, yet I'm finding myself praising Somersault for opposite reasons."

Tom Hall: "This intersection, where chaos crashes against the need for civilization, is the bull's eye on Haneke's dartboard, and in watching Benny's Video, 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance and Funny Games back to back to back, the Austrian director proves to be an expert marksman."

"Whereas other horror flicks scare through startle shock tactics, Feed leaves a residue of discomfort and queasy unease," writes Michael Guillen. "Give it a chance on dvd. You deserve to be disgusted and might even find a certain delight in being so."

Dawn C Chmielewski: "Hollywood studios will cross a significant technological and psychological frontier today when they offer the first downloadable movies that can be legally burned onto a DVD."

Also in the Los Angeles Times:

  • Claudia Eller and Richard Verrier: "Walt Disney Co's move this week to lay off about 650 employees and revamp its Burbank studio to make fewer films only confirms what many in the entertainment industry have been stressing over for months: The movie business is shrinking."

Monster House

Jami Bernard on My Super Ex-Girlfriend: "I wouldn't go on at length about a movie like this except that the missed opportunity is profound. Fatal Attraction is in desperate need of a feminist makeover, but I'd rather see a serious one than a comic send-up (it is its own send-up, really)." Jennifer Merin talks with Ivan Reitman about his movie for the New York Press. Update: More from Nick Schager in Slant.

Also in the NYP, Armond White on what makes the "silly, lightweight" Little Man "almost deep." More from Scott Foundas. Related: Cartoon Brew lists the ways the Wayans' comedy is very, very similar to the Warners cartoon, Baby Buggy Bunny. Via Scott Weinberg at Cinematical. More from Annie Frisbie at Zoom In Online.

Up-n-coming: Guillermo Del Toro's Deadman.

Caveh Zahedi explains why Air New Zealand is his new favorite airline. I'm sold.

Online viewing tip #1. It's a Wrap. For Edgar Wright, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg's Hot Fuzz, that is. Via Chris Tilly at Time Out.

Online viewing tip #2. Ajit Anthony Prem remixes Vincent Gallo's Buffalo '66 and Barbara Loden's Wanda.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:39 AM | Comments (2)

Fests and events, 7/20.

Festival of Preservation In the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan hails the opening of the UCLA Film & Television Archive's Festival of Preservation (through August 19), "showing the widest and most exciting variety of films of any festival in the known world, running the gamut from Victor Mature's unmistakable grunts in One Million BC to the experimental efforts of elegant aesthetician Kenneth Anger."

John Patterson in the LA Weekly: "The continuing appeal of the Mods & Rockers films undoubtedly derives from the movie establishment's disarray during the 60s, and its cluelessness about the exploding youth demographic." The series runs through August 17.

The Philadelphia City Paper reviews highlights of the second week of the Philadelphia International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (through July 25).

"The working-class, faithful expressions of Borzage's movies preserve virtues that our contemporary cinema has forsaken." Armond White in the New York Press on Frank Borzage, Hollywood Romantic (through August 20). Update: Dan Callahan on Street Angel and Seventh Heaven in Slant.

For SF60, Michael Fox previews the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (today through July 27 before moving throughout the Bay Area). Update: More from Kelly Vance in the East Bay Express.

The Lumière Reader's coverage of the New Zealand International Film Festivals rolls on.

Brian Brooks previews the New York International Latino Film Festival (July 25 through 30); also at indieWIRE, Kim Adelman picks "Ten Outstanding Shorts from Outfest 2006."

Posted by dwhudson at 6:19 AM

Gérard Oury, 1919 - 2006.

Gérard Oury
Director Gérard Oury, a cultural icon of France whose decades-old comedies remain hits today, has died, local officials at his Riviera home said Thursday. He was 87.

[...]

Besides [The Adventures of] Rabbi Jacob, he is best known for the 1966 movie La Grande Vadrouille (Don't Look Now - We're Being Shot At).

[...]

He directed France's greats, from comedians Louis de Funès and Bourvil to Jean-Paul Belmondo and Yves Montand. President Jacques Chirac, in a statement, called Oury's movies "an integral part of our culture and our imagination." The president of the Cannes Film Festival, Gilles Jacob, praised Oury for his "sense of comedy, sense of rhythm... timing, all with an absence of pretension."

The AP.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:14 AM

July 19, 2006

Online browsing, listening and viewing.

Blinkity Blank The National Film Board of Canada has made 50 animated shorts, several classics included, viewable at their site. Via filmtagebuch.

Goodie Bag TV's got a lovely clip from Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus.

Facets Multi-Media has begun posting its Cinechat events; so far, you can watch a discussion of Who Gets to Call It Art?, moderated by Gretchen Helfrich, with art collectors Lewis Manilow and Ron Krueck, curators Kathy Cottong and Susanne Ghez, Dean of the School of Art and Architecture at UIC Judith Russi Kirschner and art dealer Donald Young, and a discussion of Grapes of Wrath with Studs Terkel and critic Michael Wilmington.

Erik Davis files another edition of "Eat My Shorts" at Cinematical.

Chris Cunningham's video for The Horrors's "Sheena is a Parasite," starring Samantha Morton. Via Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing, where Cory Doctorow's got a terrific clip of Chico tickling the ivories.

Czech poster for 2001 Kubrick Film Art. Via Coudal Partners, also pointing to the trailer for Visual Futurist: The Art and Life of Syd Mead.

Jordan Mattos's hand-drawn movie-themed t-shirts. Via Sujewa Ekanayake.

Stuart Cooper talks about Overlord with Leonard Lopate.

The Daily Show: "The Brink of War?"

Rope of Silicon has ten clips from Miami Vice. Via Merrick at AICN.

And finally, a bit of silliness. Knights of the Round Table (Star Trek cut to the tune from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, via Screenhead) and Vader Sessions, starring James Earl Jones - thanks, Jerry!

Posted by dwhudson at 3:47 PM

Books, 7/19.

In Capra's Shadow For the New York Observer, Scott Eyman reviews Ian Scott's In Capra's Shadow: The Life and Career of Screenwriter Robert Riskin: "When two talents are yoked together, they abrade and jostle in unexpected ways, with the creative result often greater than the sum of the parts."

"You won't find Tom Schroeppel's face adorning the cover of Film Comment, Filmmaker, MovieMaker or any other film magazines that champion American cinema, yet, in his own way, Schroeppel has exerted a quiet influence on aspiring filmmakers in film schools across the country for the last twenty-five years. How? As the author of The Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video, one of the simplest - and by simplest, I mean best - textbooks to cover the basics of motion picture production." Paul Harrill interviews him for his site, Self-Reliant Filmmaking.

"There are hundreds of books that have been written to provide guidance and inspiration to filmmakers, but to me there are only four classics: Christine Vachon's Shooting to Kill, Robert McKee's Story, Judith Weston's Directing Actors and John Pierson's Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes." And now, writing at Zoom In Online, Reid Rosefelt adds a fifth title: John Anderson and Laura Kim's I Wake Up Screening: What to Do Once You've Made That Movie.

Update, 7/20: Edmund Fawcett in the Times Literary Supplement on Simon Callow's Orson Welles: Hello Americans: "Detail is occasionally dense, but Callow is too good a storyteller and too shrewd an observer to let the narrative flag for long. The end of the book invites not 'Ouf!', but 'What happens next?'."

Posted by dwhudson at 3:00 PM | Comments (3)

Fests and events, 7/19.

Cheryl Eddy previews the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (tomorrow through July 27 at the Castro, before moving on to Berkeley, Mountain View and San Rafael), paying particular attention to KZ. Related: Whiskey's on the program, and Johnny Ray Huston remembers Juan Pablo Rebella. So, too, does Ronald Bergan in the Guardian.

Cinemasports

Related: At SF360, Susan Gerhard talks with Leena Prasad, who took part in the 48 Hour Film Project last year and "is already gearing up for her next filmmaking-as-sprint-race this weekend (starting line is Dolores Park, 9 am; films screen the Castro at 9:30 pm the same day) via Cinemasports," part of the SFJFF.

Also, an interview with California Film Institute Executive Director Mark Fishkin about the Sundance Institute's "Art House Project" and the retrospective at the Rafael of films debuting at Sundance over the past 25 years.

Back to the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Dennis Harvey on 10 Rillington Place, screening tomorrow as part of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' Too Scary for DVD: Neglected Horror on 35mm series, which ends next week.

More reviews from the Auckland Film Festival (through July 30) are up at the East Bay View.

New to Slant's feature, Flesh and Desire: The Films of Frank Borzage, Dan Callahan: "The unique quality of History is Made at Night is its ability to turn on a dime, flipping from one extreme to another so that the extremes intensify each other - it's as if Borzage forced the Melodrama and the Romantic Comedy into a room and ordered them to make love." Callahan also reviews Man's Castle and Lucky Star. Frank Borzage, Hollywood Romantic runs at the Museum of the Moving Image through August 20.

Fanfan la Tulipe Focusing on Fanfan la Tulipe, Jessica Winter looks ahead to Film Forum's Summer Swashbucklers series, "a frothy tonic in the midst of blockbuster dog days." Also in the Voice, Joshua Land on The World According to Shorts.

The Philadelphia Weekly grades the highlights of the second week of the Philadelphia International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (through July 25).

The New York Television Festival is slated for September 12 through 17, buy you can get involved now. Submit an idea for an original television series and, if you're one of ten finalists, you can pitch it again, live, to TV execs at the fest. First prize: an $8,000 development deal from IFC and Rainbow Media. Deadline: August 4 or 10K entries, whichever comes first.

Current TV's Seeds of Tolerance initiative: submit a video on the theme of "tolerance" between now and August 15 for a shot at winning quite a bit of cash.

Starting August 1, you can submit your film(s) to the HBO Comedy Festival (February 28 through March 4, 2007).

The Hollywood Reporter's Gregg Goldstein: "The New York Film Festival [September 29 through October 15) has crowned Stephen Frears's darkly comic docudrama The Queen as its opening-night film." More from Eugene Hernandez at indieWIRE.

At Cineuropa, Camillo de Marco tracks the progress of Arbeit Macht Frei through the festival circuit.

The Reeler is impressed with MoMA's schedule for The Huston Family: 75 Years on Film (August 18 through September 22).

Michael Guillen, Peter Nellhaus and, at the Siffblog, Anne M Hockens and David Jeffers all file good long looks back at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

At WSWS, Richard Phillips has more on the Sydney Film Festival

Posted by dwhudson at 2:39 PM

Clerks II.

Clerks II "First, the good news," writes Nathan Rabin at the AV Club. "Clerks II is everything [Kevin] Smith's fans could hope it would be. Now the bad news: Clerks II is everything Smith's fans could hope it would be."

In an odd move for an East Coast alternative weekly, the Voice runs New Times critic Robert Wilonsky's review; he finds it "can't bear the strain of its amateur-hour theatrics, no matter how big its heart or how many crocodile tears it manages to squirt."

Meanwhile, Kevin Smith blasts Joel Siegel for making a show of himself walking out of press screening 40 minutes in: "Leave the diva-like behavior and drama-queen antics to the movie stars, not the movie reviewer, ya' rude-ass prick."

Commentary on this rant is already rampant, but via Ray Pride at Movie City News, two worthy reads: Reid Rosefelt recalls dealing with critics at Zoom In Online and, at the LA Weekly's site, Scott Foundas, who, in an open letter to Smith that starts out being about almost getting yanked from a screening, segues into a review: "Watching the film, I was reminded that, for all your outward irreverence, you're a big old softie at heart... this is the umpteenth movie I've seen this year about guys in their 30s who aren't quite sure what they want to do with their lives, and it's the only one that strikes a real chord, because it's neither an exaltation nor a condemnation of slackerdom, but rather just a sweet little fable about how sometimes the life that you think could be so much better is actually pretty damn good already."

Sean Burns talks with Smith for the Philadelphia Weekly, Rob Nelson for the City Pages.

Online viewing tip. Film Threat has been posting a series of video interviews with the cast.

Updates: Via David Poland, who has his own Kevin Smith story to tell, culminating in quite an outburst, an online listening tip: Smith and Joel Siegel have it out on the Opie & Anthony Show.

Among the Cinemarati, Low iq canadian asks, "Anyone need a synonym?"

Updates, 7/20: Marc Savlov talks with Smith for the Austin Chronicle: "I've got a story to tell, and I think it's a worthy successor."

"At times uproarious in an 'I can't believe they just said that' kind of way, the film is steeped in Jersey Girl's predictable family/romantic drama conventions," writes Brett Michel in the Boston Phoenix. And he also talks with Smith.

NPR's Steve Inskeep talks with Smith, too.

More listening. Cinematical's James Rocchi has a quick chat with Jeff Anderson (Randal) and Brian O'Halloran (Dante).

Posted by dwhudson at 11:56 AM | Comments (4)

July 18, 2006

Sight & Sound. 08/06.

Sight & Sound: 08/06 That face is beginning to look awfully familiar. At any rate, there's an animation special with pieces on A Scanner Darkly, naturally, as well as Cars, Renaissance and Princess in the new issue of Sight & Sound, but none of those are online. Even so, there's an animation timeline, beginning in 1832 with the Phenakistoscope and moving along to Disney's buyout of Pixar. Quite an interesting browse, and it's also evidently a "longer version of what features in the magazine."

"For the first time in more than 15 years (I'm excepting the remarkable box office for Flowers of Shanghai in France), Hou's critical standing is being matched by popular success," writes Tony Ryans. "It's an interesting and surprising turn of events, since Three Times is in no fundamental way different from other recent Hou Hsiao-Hsien movies."

Les Amants réguliers Jonathan Rosenbaum on Les Amants réguliers (Regular Lovers): "[Philippe] Garrel might be regarded as a kind of romantic luxury only a culture such as France's can fully support, or perhaps envision: relatively free from most commercial restraints, including many of the usual obligations associated with telling a story; surviving on the fringes of art cinema while retaining the same overall ambitions; defiantly remaining, as New York admirer Kent Jones put it in the title of one appreciation, 'Sad and Proud of It'."

Philip Kemp: "The centerpiece of the great trio of films directed by [Carol] Reed at the height of his career, The Fallen Idol has suffered neglect in recent years, its quiet murmur drowned out by the melodramatic reverberations of its predecessor and successor, Odd Man Out and The Third Man."

Reviews:

The Atrocity Exhibition

Posted by dwhudson at 2:46 PM | Comments (2)

DVDs, 7/18.

DK Holm follows up on his first column with a roundup of takes on classic film noir, an attaché case-load of James Bond for the Brits, early John Woo, the latest from Criterion and more.

On Dangerous Ground On DVD Tuesdays in America, there is usually one super huge release, around which lesser discs spin like mere satellites. Perhaps the most anticipated DVD release of the day, at least in Region 1, is Warner Home Video's Film Noir Classic Collection Vol 3. The DVD Savant, Glenn Erickson, does an audio commentary track for one of the films in the package, On Dangerous Ground, but reviews the set anyway, making the pertinent query, "Film Noir Vol 3 has two MGM titles and three RKOs, so the big question is, where are the Warner noirs? The only answer is that the restoration process hasn't quite caught up with desirable titles like The Unsuspected, Nora Prentiss and Nobody Lives Forever."

At the DVD Journal, the set is split up among reviewers, and Dawn Taylor handles His Kind of Woman (1951), which she finds "the most delicious kind of noir cinema - it's all style and witty patter with a plot so ancillary to the proceedings that it almost could have been done away with entirely," and Lady in the Lake (1947), finding that the film's almost unique subjective camera technique "while an interesting concept, ironically serves to make the viewer more aware of every camera angle and shift in perspective, and when the movie's obligatory femme fatale leans in with huge, puckered lips to kiss Marlowe/us, it's almost like a parody of a bad 3-D film."

Dave Kehr at the New York Times finds evidence of a cunning studio plan within Warner's six-film simultaneous box set, the Tough Guys Collection, which, as a sequel to Warner's previous gangster box, "suggests the chief strategy Warners adopted in changing unbridled killers into censor-friendly figures of high moral standing. They simply switched sides, with [James] Cagney as an FBI agent in William Keighleys 1935 G-Men and [Edward G] Robinson as an undercover agent infiltrating a mob in Mr Keighley's 1936 Bullets or Ballots."

At DVD Talk, the DVD Savant also handles the double dipping release of Some Like it Hot, now in a two-disc collector's edition, which Erickson praises for finally offering up an anamorphic transfer; it's "a satisfactory replacement for [MGM's] old, flat letterboxed special edition. The enhanced transfer is a great improvement, although the encoding doesn't 'pop' as it might; Savant remembers seeing B&W prints of this movie that were incredibly rich." Speaking of transfers, Gary W Tooze at DVD Beaver likes the job done on V for Vendetta better than the movie, calling it a "wonderful tight, anamorphic, progressive transfer."

James Bond Ultimate Editions In England a whole slew of James Bond Ultimate Editions came out under the aegis of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, and Eamonn McCusker's comments on From Russia With Love are representative of the overall take in DVD Times: "Deep within the Bond series lies a murky, densely plotted spy thriller far away from what one assumes to be the legacy of the James Bond films. Within a smaller frame than its predecessor and never as flirtatious as those that followed it, From Russia With Love is a low-key revenge thriller that reveals how the shadow of SPECTRE infiltrates both East and West, predating the more modern concept of terrorism without national allegiance."

McCusker also reviews Thunderball, but there is no word if this is the complete film, i.e., has restored the words "James Bond will return in On Her Majesty's Secret Service" instead of fading to black. As Brad Stevens wrote in his Choice Cuts column for The Dark Side, "As it happens, the next Bond film proved to be You Only Live Twice, but that hardly provides an adequate justification for truncating the finale of Thunderball, particularly since the sudden fade to black looks extremely amateurish - even someone who had never seen the film before would immediately realize that this is not how it was supposed to end."

Also in DVD Times, Noel Megahey catches up with two early John Woo films. The once-shelved Heroes Shed No Tears (1986) is a film "showing a great deal of the techniques and style that Woo would become better known for, but also not quite having bridged the credibility gap of B-movie plots involving cardboard cut-out heroes and villains and the somewhat cloying sentimentality of the studio system imposed schematic." Megahey also reviews a dubbed Run Tiger Run (also 1986). "If you can imagine [Woo] applying his extraordinary visual style and the kinetics of his action movies to a remake of Home Alone or The Prince and The Pauper, that's effectively what John Woo achieves in this colourful, cute-kid comedy."

Shakespeare Behind Bars DVD Verdict's Brett Cullum raves about the documentary Shakespeare Behind Bars, calling it a "brave film" and adding, "There's something powerful about convicts speaking in iambic pentameter, and letting their passions seep in to the words." Felix Gonzalez, Jr at DVD Review notes that "although the movie is filled with bright and often poignant moments during rehearsals, Hank Rogerson makes sure that viewers understand the heinous nature of these men's crimes," and deems Shout! Factory's R1 disc "a small triumph."

While considering Pathfinder's disc of Olympia, Joe Lauper at DVD Review finds that, though the film is "considered by many to be one of the greatest sports documentaries ever made," it can't be recommended, thanks to a poor source print ("there is minor dirt and debris as well as splice lines popping up throughout"), limp extras and inaccuracies about the content on the box.

Henrik Sylow, writing at DVD Beaver, has high praise for the R2 disc of The Proposition, judging the film to be "one of the most valuable contributions to the western genre since Eastwood's Unforgiven," and deeming the transfer "stunning."

Finally, Glenn Erickson, the DVD Savant again, reviews the Criterion Collection's two-disc set of Powell and Pressburger's A Canterbury Tale, spine No 341, bringing the consumer "what is perhaps the creative team's most experimental movie of the 1940s." Erickson likes the extras and the "sharp and clean transfer of the restored version (125 minutes versus 95) with excellent audio. The movie has many light scratches and other marks that for visual quality put it a half-notch lower than the average Criterion."

Posted by dwhudson at 5:40 AM | Comments (2)

Mickey Spillane, 1918 - 2006.

Mickey Spillane
US crime writer Mickey Spillane, who created the tough private eye Mike Hammer, has died at the age of 88.

The BBC.

Many Hammer books were made into movies, including the classic film noir Kiss Me, Deadly and The Girl Hunters, in which Spillane himself starred.

[...]

As a stylist Spillane was no innovator; the prose was hard-boiled boilerplate. In a typical scene, from The Big Kill, Hammer slugs a little punk with "pig eyes."

"I snapped the side of the rod across his jaw and laid the flesh open to the bone," Spillane wrote. "I pounded his teeth back into his mouth with the end of the barrel... and I took my own damn time about kicking him in the face. He smashed into the door and lay there bubbling. So I kicked him again and he stopped bubbling."

The AP's Bruce Smith.

See also: a Mike Hammer site; books and writers; the Wikipedia entry; and Michael Carlson's interview for Crime Time.

Updates, 7/19: The Telegraph: "The Bible apart, he was the world's fifth most extensively-translated author after Lenin, Tolstoy, Gorky and Jules Verne. 'And they,' he once noted with evident satisfaction, 'are all dead.'"

C Jerry Kutner recalls 3-D noirs at Bright Lights.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:06 AM | Comments (7)

July 17, 2006

Shorts, 7/17.

The Insider / Unbreakable It's a stretch, but Hervé Aubron tries it out: Michael Mann and M Night Shyamalan share a "taste for the lackluster and the dull [which] is fairly remarkable in Hollywood, where the Tarantinian revolution with its brightly colored voracity is never very far off. It is not a question of a simple counterpoint: the worlds of Mann and Shyamalan are gray because they are limbs. Their occupants are already dead." Also in Cahiers du cinéma, Cyril Neyrat: "With La Raison du plus faible [The Right of the Weakest], [Luc] Belvaux pushes the revival of the Hollywood model to its ultimate streamlining. The classicism of his mise-en-scène is of a singular rigor."

Somewhat related is Kathy Fennessy's Siffblog entry on Sam Fuller and Luc Moullet, in which Cahiers has a cameo.

Zidane, Un Portrait du 21e Siecle "is remarkable enough in itself," writes Jason Solomons, "picturing the subject with all the detail, poise and human compassion of a Velasquez or a Degas. It's a work that pierces the soul of the human condition but, more significantly now, it also describes a narrative arc of uncanny prescience.... A French journalist close to Zidane believes that 'Douglas [Gordon and Philippe Parreno]'s film is now a true portrait of Zizou. His actions in the Final stand as testament to the earlier work of art.'" Related: Susan Gerhard at SF360.

Also in the Observer:

  • Geraldine Bedell meets Gurinder Chadha as she prepares to shoot the Dallas, based, yes, on the 80s-era series: "She's direct and natural and funny and enthusiastic and, while I'm sure there must be people who don't like her, I haven't met one. They probably stay at home, for fear of having their minds changed by cheerfulness."

  • Killian Fox: "Yes: there are now trailers for books and soon, according to Steve Osgoode, director of online marketing at HarperCollins Canada, they will be everywhere."

  • Film4 is about to become a free service for UK viewers; Jason Solomons plugs a "list show," 50 Films to See Before You Die.

Acquarello: "Johan van der Keuken's I Love Dollar is an ingeniously conceived, cohesively organic, and provocative exposition into the circulation and financial mechanisms of money in modern civilization and its wide ranging social and geopolitical repercussions."

Mother Joan of the Angels "Some see Mother Joan of the Angels as a metaphor of the political atmosphere in 1960s Poland, while others detect allusions to the 17th century conflict between religion and the rise in science and reason." For Adam Balz, writing at Not Coming to a Theater Near You, it's "an examination of our willingness to blindly follow devotions."

KJ Doughton talks with Brothers of the Head co-director Keith Fulton for Filmmaker.

"It's an outright masterpiece, easily ranking with my favorite works of the medium." The medium is the graphic novel, the masterpiece is Black Hole, by Charles Burns, and the reviewer is David Lowery, who's "okay" with its being adapted by Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman, but not at all okay with Alexandre Aja directing.

"Not a great film, The Devil Wears Prada is nevertheless, and obviously, very bloggable, for more besides its shoes and belts," writes Robert Cashill. Over at Bright Lights, Alan Vanneman would, in his own way, agree.

Snakes on a Plane and what it all means, etc: Chuck Klosterman in Esquire and Aemilia Scott in Salon; Anne Thompson and Chuck Tryon.

David Austin at Cinema Strikes Back on Sogo Ishii's Electric Dragon 80,000 Volts: "It's an audacious punk masterpiece that would fit in as comfortably as an installation in any museum as it does as a narrative film."

"The prescience of the film is quite haunting." ScreenGrab launches a series on "Forgotten Films" with Bilge Ebiri's take on Alex Cox's Walker.

"Russia's movie industry, following a torpid decade that mirrored the country's social, political and economic turbulence after the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, is in the midst of a creative renaissance and box-office boom," report Laura M Holson and Steven Lee Myers in the New York Times. "And Hollywood — whose producers, distributors and exhibitors rarely pass up a chance to exploit an opportunity — is spending millions on theaters, distributors and movies themselves."

"Danish film has always punched above its weight." A brisk primer, from the founding of Nordisk Film in 1906 to this year's Princess, from Stephanie Bunbury in the Age. Via Movie City News.

For the Independent, David Thomson records an amusing conversation with a Hollywood veteran about how, with Pirates 2, the "wheel takes one more crazy spin."

Time's Jeff Chu has ten questions for Isabella Rossellini. Related: Susan King's questions in the Los Angeles Times - where Mary McNamara profiles Greg Kinnear.

In Newsweek, Devin Gordon profiles Gil Kenan, director of Monster House, exec produced by Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis: "It's a wisp of a story, but just as his bosses did in their early 1980s adventure films, Kenan tells the stuffing out of it. He shares their gift for evoking the cozy tedium of suburban life - and the flights of imagination that kids use to escape it."

The Chicago Tribune's Mark Caro talks with Kevin Smith about the filmmaker's obsessive tracking of every review. Via Ray Pride at Movie City Indie.

Up-n-coming: Quite possibly, a remake of Witness for the Prosecution with Nicole Kidman and Al Pacino.

At Slant, Ed Gonzalez snickers at Shock to the System, "some kind of victory for giving new meaning to the unintentionally hilarious." Also, DVDs: Paul Schrodt on Queer Duck: The Movie and Eric Henderson on Asphalt.

Police Beat As East Bay View swerves back towards being a movie blog, Charlie Chan turns in reviews of Police Beat and Ballets Russes.

Jay and Mark Duplass, directors of The Puffy Chair, answer indieWIRE's questions.

Like the rest of us, this Internet thing isn't getting any younger. Along with Ain't It Cool News and indieWIRE, the Onion celebrates ten years online. Via Fimoculous. Meanwhile, Sean Jordan's ZENtertainment returns.

New blog: I'm in a Jess Franco State of Mind. Via Tim Lucas's Video WatchBlog.

Online viewing tip. Good Cinema. Via ticklebooth.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:30 PM | Comments (1)

June Carr Ormand.

Girl From Tobacco Row
A slice of rowdy movie history has passed away with the incomparable June Carr Ormond, who died [on Friday] after a long illness. A vivacious ex-vaudevillian... June was the matriarch of Nashville's First Family of Exploitation, the Ormonds - the folks responsible for such drive-in marvels as 1968's The Exotic Ones and 1971's If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?

[...]

Her loss - and her link to the racy, rambunctious secret history of American movies - makes the city a duller place. But in heaven right about now, the joint is jumpin'.

Jim Ridley at the Nashville Scene's Pith in the Wind.

Over the decades, she shared the bill with such stars of Broadway, film, radio, television and vaudeville as Ginger Rogers, Ethel Merman, Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Lash LaRue, Charlie McCarthy and The Three Stooges. Among Mrs Ormond's acquaintances were Howard Hughes, Florenz Ziegfeld, Elizabeth Taylor, Bela Lugosi, Debbie Reynolds and Roy Rogers.

Ken Beck in the Tennessean.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:43 AM | Comments (1)

Fests and events, 7/17.

"In what is shaping up to be the Bay Area art event of the summer, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is presenting the only US showing of Matthew Barney's extensive Drawing Restraint series. Thomas Logoreci talks with curator Benjamin Weil for SF360. The extravaganza is open Friday through September 17.

The Fountain Harry Knowles is "fucking jazzed," and understandably so, to be able to announce that Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain will be the closing night film at the Fantastic Fest (September 21 through 28 in Austin). He's got notes at AICN on over a dozen other titles in the lineup as well.

In the Los Angeles Times, Susan King sets the mood for The Female of the Species: Screen Sirens of the 20s, a series at the UCLA Hammer Museum through August 11.

All weekend long, the Siffblog turned into the Sfsffblog, which is to say, David Jeffers and Anne M Hockens sent in quick, on-target dispatches from the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Related: Michael Guillen on Seventh Heaven and Brian Darr: "I'm reminded again why, once you've enjoyed 35mm prints of these films on the Castro Theatre's towering screen with live musical accompaniment by some of the best in the business and a very appreciative audience, it's hard to be satisfied by a home video silent film experience."

At Cineuropa, Bénédicte Prot checks in briefly with the ongoing Munich Film Festival. Also: Fabien Lemercier takes note of the single Hungarian entry in the Lacarno International Film Festival (August 2 through 12), Kythera; Vitor Pinto sees a Portuguese entry, Body Rice; and Lemercier on the French films competing in Venice (August 30 through September 9).

Richard Phillips begins to look back at the Sydney Film Festival: "Although the festival provided some sense of the world, with a large number of features about the Middle East and a few valuable movies, many of the problems highlighted in previous WSWS coverage of the festival are still present."

Deutsche Welle reports on a Bollywood festival in Stuttgart.

Online viewing tip. A brief clip from Caveh Zahedi: Bruce Conner introduces a screening of Pandora's Box. At Movie City Indie, Ray Pride points to Kristine McKenna's 1990 profile of Conner for the LAT.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:40 AM

Lady in the Water.

Lady in the Water "Given the twerpy messianism of Lady in the Water, it's pretty clear that M Night Shyamalan regards himself as a sacred vessel," writes David Edelstein. "His new movie is like Splash reworked by a grandiose Sunday-school teacher." Also in New York: Emily Nussbaum meets Paul Giamatti and reminds that Lady is just "the start of a flurry of upcoming Giamatti films: He gives voice to an exterminator in the animated The Ant Bully, and plays an inspector general in The Illusionist, an amazing screw-on head in a comic-book TV movie called Amazing Screw-On Head [Update: Watch it here; via Drawn!], and a distant dad in The Nanny Diaries. For any fan, it's surprising and satisfying that he seems to have transformed from character actor to leading man without ever losing his independent-oddball options."

Updated through 7/21.

Which is great; but as you've undoubtedly heard, Shyamalan is busily making sure that this new movie is all about Shyamalan. To the Philadelphia Inquirer's Carrie Rickey, he "politely allows that his geographical distance from Hollywood 'may engender mutual mistrust and suspicion.' Yet he can't resist adding, 'I've made four studio movies, super-personal, from my original screenplays. Except for the Pixar films, they're the most successful four consecutive originals Hollywood has had in the last decade.'" Via Anne Thompson. Update: David Poland finds "five filmmakers who have had clearly more extraordinary track records than Night and a couple of others who are right there, whose fortunes only got better."

Caryn James has more on the not-so-stealth campaign in the New York Times and Sean Smith helps Newsweek tip-toe away from its claim four years ago that Shyamalan would be "The Next Spielberg."

As for the film, "the magic that would transport you from reality into fantasy is missing," writes Kirk Honeycutt's in the Hollywood Reporter. Writing in Screen Daily, Steven Rosen finds it "entertaining despite its shortcomings." Jeffrey Wells really, really wanted to be impressed - but most definitely was not.

Update: Time's Richard Corliss: "All filmmakers are occasionally bound to test and confound their audience. Shyamalan has earned that right. But perhaps for his young-male audience - and certainly for this critic, who's usually on Shyamalan's wavelength - Lady doesn't work." Via Brendon Connelly.

Updates, 7/19: "[N]othing will prepare you - not his previous films, not any reviews you may read, not even a lifetime spent watching Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! cartoons - for the rampant foolishness of Lady in the Water," writes Michael Atkinson. But, also in the Voice, Michael Koresky wonders, "why are so many so eager to come down so hard on Shyamalan, whose insistence on creating such ethereal, confounding universes is premised on constant invention and revelation?"

"Has M Night Shyamalan lost his goddamn mind?" the Philadelphia Weekly's Sean Burns demands to know. "That's the only logical excuse for Lady in the Water, the Philly-based writer/director/egomaniac's convulsive seizure of narcissism that's so nakedly personal - and also so unintentionally, hilariously revealing - watching the movie feels a bit like walking in on your roommate while he's masturbating... to a picture of himself."

For the AV Club, Nathan Rabin interviews Giamatti and reviews the Lady: "[I]n deconstructing his oeuvre, Shyamalan has unwittingly destroyed its magic." Also, a list, from Psycho to Hide and Seek: "Are twist endings still necessary?"

Anne Thompson: "In retrospect I wish that Shyamalan had swallowed his pride and hurt feelings and said to his studio collaborators, 'Ok, I need your help.'"

The Reeler attended the New York premiere, where he got quotage and pix from just about everyone.

Updates, 7/20: The LA Weekly's Scott Foundas: "Lady in the Water isn't awful, mind you, but it is a failure, and one that carries itself with such chest-puffing pomposity that many will take pleasure in shooting it down for sport.... There's no question that Shyamalan can do remarkable things — his last (and, to my mind, best) film, The Village, turned on an ingenuous metaphor for isolationism and self-deception, before becoming undone by so much needless trickery. But consider the totality of his career and he does not seem to have advanced."

The Philadelphia City Paper's Sam Adams meets Shyamalan, Giamatti and Bryce Dallas Howard, who draws parallels between Shyamalan's set and Lars von Trier's. As for the movie, "Shyamalan mocks up the shell of a fairy tale but only fills it with hot air."

"[T]he movie does not suck," decides Gary Susman in the Boston Phoenix. "That's not much of a blurb quote, but it's all the enthusiasm I could muster up." Susman does the junket thing as well.

Clarence Carter at the Reverseblog:

Setting aside personal preferences or general distaste of the man's films for a second, where else can we look for a young filmmaker working within the studio system who is actively trying to carve out an aesthetic idenitity amidst the myriad outside forces that work in shaping any huge production? Brett Ratner? Gore Verbinski? Please, let's be serious.

Even if the films were all bad, which they're not, they work from moment to moment better than almost anything of a similar scale in theaters.

Cinematical's Kim Voynar: "Lady in the Water isn't the entirely horrible film that critics have been salivating to sink their teeth into. It's just not a great film... It's presented as a supernatural thriller, a fable about this spooky 'lady in the water,' when, in fact, the focus of the film is Giamatti's character."

For Keith Uhlich, writing in Slant, it "is first and foremost a gaping psychic wound, a blood-spattered, pulsating tumor ripped violently from both its creator's head and, more fascinatingly, his heart, then planted onscreen, raw and unfettered, for all to come and see. That is its beauty and its limitation."

Ross Douthat in Slate: "[W]hile Shyamalan may be a narcissist with delusions of grandeur, he's also a filmmaker of rare talent and creativity (these are hardly mutually exclusive categories, after all), and however lousy Lady in the Water proves to be, he deserves to survive this summer of embarrassment and live to film again.... Shyamalan's missteps have been interesting, his mistakes worth a second look, and his obsession with the integrity of his own artistic visions, however irritating, has distinguished him from nearly all his young-Hollywood competitors." Douthat then goes on to make a few career comparisons.

Updates, 7/21: Shyamalan may have "lost his creative marbles," as Manohla Dargis proposes in the New York Times, but Lady in the Water is "one of the more watchable films of the summer. A folly, true, but watchable."

"The breeze of enlightenment that comes off his movies feels belabored, laden with meticulous details that, if you think about them even just the tiniest bit, essentially mean nothing," writes Salon's Stephanie Zacharek. "Lady in the Water has the lightest touch of any Shyamalan movie, which isn't saying much: Shyamalan seizes several opportunities to poke fun at himself, only to scuttle back to the safety of his usual faux-philosophical muck."

Andy Klein in the LA CityBeat: "What's most surprising is that Lady in the Water doesn't have even The Village's slim virtues. It isn't impressively directed or visually memorable. Shyamalan has hired one of the world's greatest cinematographers, Christopher Doyle (In the Mood for Love, Chungking Express), and drawn utterly unmemorable work from him - which is surely the movie's most astounding accomplishment."

It's "a major misfire," according to Kevin Crust in the Los Angeles Times.

The Washington Post's Desson Thomson not only likes it, he claims it's better than The Sixth Sense: Lady in the Water, a captivating amalgam of mystery, thriller and mythic fantasy, eclipses his 1999 debut for sheer inventiveness, audacity and narrative derring-do."

Posted by dwhudson at 4:30 AM | Comments (3)

July 16, 2006

Film International. Robin Wood x 2.

I Can't Sleep What's the blogging world's equivalent of "Stop the presses!"? Whatever it might be, consider it yelped. Film International has made two pieces by Robin Wood available online.

I should explain that when I write about a film I carefully avoid reading what anyone else has said about it... What fascinates me (and constitutes my own personal view of criticism) is the relationship between the critic and the work, and the task of defining that relationship; I want no intermediaries. Writing about a film (or any work of art) is therefore a deeply personal matter, and I set aside anything that might intrude upon it. (I am also very easily intimidated - if I read someone else's account of a film that differs from my own I habitually assume that I must be wrong, and if they say more or less what I was going to say they render me superfluous).

Hardly. This is from an "Afterward" to a close reading of Claire Denis's J'ai pas sommeil (I Can't Sleep) that follows "Confessions of an Incompetent Film Critic," so delightfully readable that even newcomers to Wood will dismiss the "Incompetent" in the time it takes to wink.

In "Revenge is Sweet: The Bitterness of Audition," Wood counts on one hand the number of Takashi Miike films he's seen and remarks that Audition "is the only one of the four that interests - more than interests, fascinates - me." Then he starts reading: "For all their obvious surface differences, Audition on close inspection offers striking structural parallels with Vertigo (1958)."

Posted by dwhudson at 5:04 PM

July 15, 2006

Weekend shorts.

Viva Zapatero! John Hooper opens a terrific piece by talking with Viva Zapatero! director Sabina Guzzanti about how "Mussolini had established his dictatorship almost by stealth.... Guzzanti's riveting movie is one of three to be made in Italy in recent months that have the same underlying contention: that, before he was ousted from power in April, Silvio Berlusconi was on his way to pulling off a similar trick. In 2006. At the heart of the European Union."

Also in the Guardian:

  • Will Hodgkinson: "[Ennio] Morricone has written scores for more than 400 films since receiving his first commission in 1962, but his name will forever be linked with the haunting whistles, ticking pocket-watches and gloriously foreboding orchestral sweeps that give 1960s westerns such as A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly their mood and tension. Apparently he's not too happy about this."

  • What happens in audiences when sex and violence are combined? Alex Cox considers the implications of a recent study.

  • Peter Bradshaw hails the return of Taxi Driver.

  • Laura Barton meets television writer Kay Mellor.

  • John Patterson: "Now I haven't been to England in a few years, so I have to ask, is it now the land where American teen and pubescent comedy comes to die?"

Jennifer Merin has seen M Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water: "The illustrated children's book version, spare and sweetly mythic in tone, takes 10 minutes to read. The movie, fleshed out with an assemblage of wildly eccentric dwellers of The Cove Apartments - including its disheartened, stuttering superintendent, Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti, fascinating and engaging, as always), and the otherworldly Narf (that's Shyamalan for sea nymph) named Story (Bryce Dallas Howard, convincing as an incandescent cipher), takes a belabored 110 minutes." Also in the New York Press, Merin talks with Gil Kenan about Monster House. Related: David Poland's review: "[I]t really harkens back to the joy of The Goonies, the oddball humor of Gremlins and the sincerity of Stand By Me."

Conversations With Other Women Conversations With Other Women "turns out to be one of the genuine surprises of the summer," writes Jason Clark. Also at Slant, Ed Gonzalez on The Bridesmaid, "a gripping lark that finds Chabrol lithely sorting through the serpentine snarl of bourgie behavior and gazing at the attic clock's pendulum-sway between fantasy and reality," and Poster Boy: "[I]t's the story's with-us-or-against tirade that deserves derision."

In the LA Weekly, FX Feeney has an eye-opening appreciation of Hubert Cornfield, 1929 - 2006.

Peter Bogdanovich is currently reediting Directed by John Ford and, for a piece in the Independent on The Searchers, Geoffrey Macnab meets him:

[The Searchers] is full of what Bogdanovich calls "Ford shots." To illustrate what these are, he tells an anecdote about Howard Hawks's western, Red River, with its scene in which the clouds cover the sun and the shadows stretch over the mountains as a funeral is taking place. To an outsider, it looks as if the filmmakers are orchestrating the elements. "I asked Hawks one time, 'how did that come about?' He said, 'well, we saw it coming. We tried to get it. Once in a while you get lucky. You get one of the Ford shots.'"

If the idea that Jim Jarmusch would steal a screenplay sounds preposterous to you, that's because it is, argues Gerald Peary - quite convincingly - in the Boston Phoenix.

How very sharp, how very valuable to American indies has Jon Pierson been over many years now? Brian Clark's got a story in the Austin Chronicle. You may know that the deal-maker has been teaching at the University of Texas. So one day he shows his class (in which Clark was a student that semester) Cavite. "The credits rolled, and Pierson revealed his proposition: If the class was willing, we were to work collectively to find theatrical distribution for the film." They took a vote, went for it... and learned a helluva lot.

Jonathan Kiefer takes a good long look on the difficulties of running an art-house theater these days for the Sacramento News and Review.

Casa de Lava Dave Kehr watches Bury Me Dead, "strange and strangely engaging attempt to meld screwball comedy with a film noir plot line and atmospherics," and Pedro Costa's Casa de Lava.

"The history of the gay rights movement, like the history of all major social movements of the late 20th century, is in some powerful sense the history of inconsonant ideologies, one of them espousing the centrality of difference to any rendering of minority experience and another committed to dismantling all notions of it," writes Ginia Bellafante. What gives Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema "a strange, disorienting effect," she argues, is that it ignores the debate.

Also in the New York Times:

  • Manohla Dargis on 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance: "For [Michael] Haneke, the point seems less that evil is commonplace than that we don't engage with it as thinking, actively moral beings." Also, "There are several problems with [You, Me and Dupree], not least that there is no filmmaking to speak of," so instead of wasting column inches, she riffs on Owen Wilson for a while: "Now 37, he has found success splashing in the shallow end of the pool alongside Vince, Ben, Will, Jack and the other boy-men of modern Hollywood comedy." More from Slate's Dana Stevens.

  • Stephen Holden: In The Groomsmen, Edward Burns "paints a scathing portrait of raucous high school buddies clutching at their rock 'n' roll glory days as they push 35." Related: Film Threat's video interviews.

  • AO Scott argues that Overlord "deserves to join the pantheon of essential World War II combat movies."

  • David Browne: "Brothers of the Head takes an uncommon tack: a documentary approach that is not parody but genuinely serious drama."

  • "The Oh in Ohio is that rare American sex comedy that doesn't involve teenagers making love to pastry," writes Nathan Lee. "[T]his nicely naughty indie is full of unexpected pleasures, not least the casting of Liza Minnelli as a masturbation guru who encourages frigid women to 'liberate your labia!'" (More from Salon's Stephanie Zacharek.) Also, a sigh for the "depressing infantilism" of Little Man.

  • Neil Genzlinger on the Brazilian hit, Two Sons of Francisco.

  • "The Fox Lorber Yi Yi is a holdover from the days, not so long ago, when few studios knew what they were doing with the new medium. The Criterion Yi Yi reveals what can be accomplished by a half-decade of technical advances combined with old-fashioned care." Fred Kaplan explains.

  • John Anderson talks to conservatives who concede that "something besides liberal bias is responsible for the striking shortage of conservative nonfiction cinema at a time when filmmakers on the other end of the spectrum are flooding screens with messages about global warming, the war in Iraq and the downside of Wal-Mart."

  • Franz Lidz profiles music video and commercial directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, whose first feature is the Sundance hit, Little Miss Sunshine.

  • "As the most lasting video incarnations of Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane, Superman's pal and gal, [Jack] Larson, now 74, and [Noel] Neill, 85, have inevitably been swept up in the buzz surrounding every new version of the Man of Steel," writes Joe Rhodes. Though they have cameos in Superman Returns, George Reeves "will always be Superman to us," says Neill.

  • Richard Gere: "The opening this month of the final segment of world's highest railway, from Beijing to Lhasa, Tibet, is a staggering engineering achievement and a testimony to the developing greatness of China. But it is also the most serious threat by the Chinese yet to the survival of Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity."

Clerks II "No other filmmaker has made it his business to nurture, kibitz with, heckle and engage his fans on such an intimate, day-to-day basis." The Washington Post's Desson Thomson meets Kevin Smith. Related: Matt Dentler on Clerks II: On the second viewing, I was stunned by how tightly wound it is as a piece of narrative.... After the film, the capacity crowd stuck around for one of Kevin Smith's classic Q&A sessions. It was a Q&A that lasted about as long as the film itself, full of its own highlights." Anne Thompson caught the LA premiere. Also: Mark Olsen's profile in the Los Angeles Times.

Matthew Stadler: "There are many reasons to admire Police Beat. It is beautifully filmed, the script brims with insights about love, and (despite its observation that 'relationships are cruel, therefore the world is cruel') it is deeply optimistic. But what I admire most is the film's depiction of Seattle and, by extension, of the contemporary city." Also in the Stranger, Annie Wagner on Hou Hsiao-hsien's Three Times. More from Tram at Lucid Screening.

Even aside from Peter Jackson, "widely credited with boosting confidence in local filmmaking," New Zealand cinema's doing quite well, reports Sandy George in the Australian. Via Movie City News. Meanwhile, Matt Riviera looks ahead to a summer chock full of Australian releases.

Michael Guillen catches Eye of the Cat, a "surprisingly amusing blend between the psychologically perverse Alfred Hitchcock and the melodramatically perverse Douglas Sirk," and talks with Elisha Cuthbert about Jamie Babbit's The Quiet.

DK Holm at Quick Stop: "[T]hanks to the new book Famous Monster Movie Art of Basil Gogos, I am suddenly aware that Gogos, who is still alive, permeated the whole of pop culture."

Chris Cagle reads Ken Feil's Dying for a Laugh: Disaster Movies and the Camp Imagination: "The strength of the study is a unity of scope and purpose, uniting textuality, reception and industrial history."

Nathan Hogan at Facets Features: "In certain respects, Our Brand is Crisis is reminiscent of Jean-Xavier de Lestrade's riveting documentary mini-series The Staircase... what Lestrade and [Crisis director Rachel] Boynton reveal is how the immersion into minutia that's required to cobble together a coalition - 12 jury members, or 23% of the Bolivian electorate - inevitably leads to the evanescence of the larger goal."

Dean Kuipers talks with David Zeiger about his doc, Sir! No Sir! for the LA CityBeat.

Scoop Marcy Dermansky talks with Scarlet Johansson about Woody Allen and Scoop.

At the House Next Door, Odienator considers the angels of A Prairie Home Companion and All That Jazz ("Both works cry out, 'You're gonna miss me when I'm gone'") and lists five movies in which boys do, in fact, cry.

Film Experience readers' votes have been counted; compare their favorite actors of the 00s with Nathaniel R's.

"Writer Nick Guthe has lined up an impressive cast for his directorial debut - Mini's First Time," notes Deborah Netburn in the Los Angeles Times. "Guthe tells us how he made it happen." Regardless, Robert Abele is unimpressed by the results. More from Eric Kohn in the NYP.

Up-n-coming:

Kim Masters dishes dirt on Miami Vice: "If there were an Academy Award for on-set trauma, this movie could be a lock." Jeffrey Wells asks the cast and crew about all this.

The Hollywood Reporter's Anne Thompson explains that while studios "know that, long-term, the business is heading toward a digital download future," there are many, many reasons for dragging their feet.

Online browsing tip. Cedric Delsaux's photos placing Star Wars characters in Paris. Via Screenhead, also pointing to a few Jan Svankmajer shorts.

Online listening tip. Jon Brion was a recent guest on Sound Opinions. Thanks, Steve!

Christopher Priest: The Prestige Online viewing tip #1. The trailer for Christopher Nolan's The Prestige, with its romantic prologue, Michael Caine talking you through a literal three-act structure, the works. Adapted from the novel by Christopher Priest, starring Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale and, as Nikola Tesla, David Bowie, it makes you wonder if this is what happened to the seemingly abandoned adaptation of Carter Beats the Devil. Cinematical's Martha Fischer is also impressed.

Online viewing tip #2. 8½ Mile. Via Waxy.org.

Online viewing tip #3. Ryan Wu's found Claire Denis's video for Sonic Youth's "Incinerate."

Online viewing tip #4. Lunch with David Poland.

Online viewing tips, round 1. Ed Champion points to The Office webisodes. Related: Jim Emerson at MSN Movies on films that "capture the everyday trials, betrayals, temporary triumphs and perpetual humiliations of low or mid-level jobs without succumbing to soul-numbing tedium themselves."

Online viewing tips, round 2. Lots of Tom Waits clips at Needcoffee.com. Via Sarah Hepola at the Morning News.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:34 PM

Weekend fests and events.

Philadelphia City Paper "This year's fest specializes in shattering stereotypes, from the implied romance between a cross-dressing boy and a Filipino cop in The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros to the transgender rappers of the homo-hop documentary Pick Up the Mic," writes Sam Adams, introducing the Philadelphia City Paper's cover package on the Phildelphia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (through July 25). Adams then takes a closer look at three films "focusing on the lives of men and women who are both LGBT and faithful Christians" before all the Paper's critics offer quick takes over over two dozen films to be screened in the first week alone.

Brian Brooks has a briefer overview at indieWIRE, and I noted the Philadelphia Weekly's preview on Wednesday.

Noting that "the scope of its offerings is broader this year, both chronologically and aesthetically," Chris Morris previews the Mods & Rockers Film Festival for Reuters (through August 31).

More from Adam Nayman in the LA Weekly, where Scott Foundas previews UCLA's Festival of Preservation: "It's a mother lode of moviegoing bliss the likes of which even the most encyclopedic home DVD library would be hard-pressed to match." Also, Holly Willis: "In his trio of short video works screening at the Hammer Museum, the 32-year-old Dutch artist Jesper Just uses recognizable Hollywood visual cues, storytelling tropes and genre conventions, but there's a twist: Just has eliminated the female, and in her glaring absence erupts another economy of desire."

"The Brattle's Rare Film Noir festival spotlights what makes the experience of going to movie revivals irreplaceable," writes Steve Vineberg in the Boston Phoenix. Tuesdays, through August 22. Related: John McElwee goes looking for the beginnings of the Bogart cult: "The Brattle is generally credited with having 'transformed Humphrey Bogart into a global icon.' Everyone assumes that it began with the Casablanca revival, but I found a couple of sources that said it actually caught fire with Beat The Devil."

Weekending in Austin? See Jette Kernion at Cinematical.

San Francisco Silent Film Festival is underway, running through the weekend. Dennis Harvey has an overview at SF360; earlier: Jonathan Marlow. Related: Anne M Hockens at the Siffblog on Seventh Heaven: "Isn't it amazing that a love story created about eighty years ago can still profoundly move a modern audience?"

Telecom New Zealand International Film Festivals This Film is Not Yet Rated "is not a movie to bowl you over with its cinematography, performances or coverage of humanitarian issues," writes Jacob Powell. "However, it is compulsory viewing for anyone interested in the process of filmmaking, or those who have thoughts about societal controls exercised by the powerful (in this case the big Hollywood studios) over all others in a given sphere of life." More Lumière Reader coverage of the Telecom New Zealand International Film Festivals comes from Tim Gray others.

Back in iW, Eugene Hernandez looks ahead to the Traverse City Film Festival (July 31 through August 6) and talks with fest prez and artistic director Michael Moore.

The Locarno International Film Festival opens on August 2 and through through the 12th; at Cineuropa, Camillo de Marco surveys the lineup, plus a few Italian pictures, while Vitor Pinto looks ahead to the Spanish entries.

James MacGregor at Netribution: "The first Saudi Arabian film festival opened in the Red Sea city of Jeddah this week, in an ultra-conservative country where the silver screen is so controversial that the word 'cinema' does not even get a mention in the title. 'The Jeddah Visual Show Festival' started on Wednesday night screening two hours of home-grown short films." Via Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing.

Wim Wenders. Immagini dal pianeta terra Wim Wenders. Immagini dal pianeta terra is an exhibition of photographs at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome through August 27. "The images, some of which are almost 5 metres wide, are mainly landscapes and cityscapes captured by Wenders during personal travels, filming or location scouting," reports ANSA.

The Economist sorts out what went wrong and what's gone right in the exhibition Voyages en utopie: Jean-Luc Godard 1946-2006 in Paris through August 14.

Online listening tip. Curator Tom Gunning talks about Frank Borzage, Hollywood Romantic, the series running at the Museum of the Moving Image through August 20, on the Leonard Lopate Show. Related: Nick Pinkerton at Reverse Shot.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:58 AM

indieWIRE @ 10.

indieWIRE I hadn't realized that the summer of 1996 was such a landmark season. While I, in partnership with eLine, the very company that would eventually launch GreenCine a few years ago, started fiddling around with an online zine, others were at work on publications that would last many times longer. Just twelve days ago, major congrats went out to Ain't It Cool News on their 10th anniversary. Turns out, less than two weeks after AICN saw its first page, sent out its first issue on July 15, 1996.

Today, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief Eugene Hernandez looks back to find that, while, obviously, much has changed, a few things haven't. "[W]e immediately began to try to define the term 'independent film,'" he writes, and of course, the final word on that definition still hasn't been spoken. And, while iW has grown phenomenally and phenomenally quickly (4000 subscribers to the daily email newsletter in the first year - a lot in the days of dial-up and blink tags!), adding along the way monster projects like the blogs and indieLOOP, filing several stories a day, lacing them with bigger, brighter pix, indieWIRE is still what it's always been, the essential source of news, and yes, community support for anyone who cares about alternatives to Hollywood fare, not least of whom are many, many indie filmmakers themselves.

So happy birthday, indieWIRE, and here's to another ten - hell, ten times ten years!

Update, 7/17: Happy birthday wishes from Matt Dentler, Tom Hall and Wendy Mitchell.

Updates, 7/19: Anthony Kaufman and Michael Tully's best wishes.

More from former iW senior editor Matthew Ross at Filmmaker.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:39 AM

Changing Times.

Changing Times "In Changing Times, [André] Téchiné, the great French director, is near the peak of his form," declares Stephen Holden in the New York Times. Armond White goes him one better in the New York Press: "For audiences who are appreciative of art, politics and emotion, Changing Times has to be the film of the year."

But for Salon's Andrew O'Hehir, "it's kind of a mess."

"Changing Times has a lot on its plate - politics, race, sexuality, religion - but all of these things are ultimately just angles at which to glimpse the city," writes Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog. "The film could be the flipside of Caché - while in Michael Haneke's film once-occupied Algeria is the angry, lurking ghost of French past, in Téchiné's Tangiers the Europeans are lost-looking, inconsequential presences facing a far worse fate than historical resentment: irrelevance. Of course, Caché was pointed and acidic; Changing Times is a mild tonal jumble with no direction in mind."

Updated through 7/17.

"You would expect, with professionals like [Gérard] Depardieu and [Catherine] Deneuve doing the heavily lifting, the love story would be the more powerful of the two competing elements at play in this film, but surprisingly, it's the lesser," writes Cinematical's Ryan Stewart. "The more interesting story is one happening around the edges -- the one speaking specifically to Arabs and Europeans and all other current occupants of the Maghreb. The place is realized here as a cauldron of inevitable movement and change, incompatible both with Islamic puritanism and French imperialist attitudes."

Update, 7/16: Marcy Dermansky: "Until the film ends, Téchiné masterfully maintains an uncomfortable suspense, only to provide a soothing, wonderful and much welcome release."

Update, 7/17: "Changing Times is really an ensemble (melo)drama but the overwhelming presence and charisma of Deneuve and Depardieu are such that if almost feels like a two-hander," writes Matt Riviera. "In Téchiné's tragic universe, the choice between a love that is within grasp and desire which burns precisely because it is out of reach is often an impossible one."

Posted by dwhudson at 9:30 AM

More on A Scanner Darkly.

A Scanner Darkly: Robert Downey Jr Director Richard Linklater, as smart and mercurial a moviemaker as is working today, has shown a capacity for callow bumper-sticker politicizing," Nick Pinkerton reminds us at Stop Smiling. "It's a relief, then, to see that his murky Scanner Darkly isn't revamped as an 'as relevant now as ever' frontal strike on surveillance culture, the Bush II American Empire, or any such popular arthouse piñatas. It's a far thornier, more engaged thing... It is unpretty, it is exhausting in its yammering, yes, but the very fact of its putting forth a vision of a future that's scented with bongwater, revolving around the axis of a sloppy living room, is enough to recommend it beyond whatever splendidly expensive bauble is being trotted out in multiplexes next Friday after next Friday ad infinitum."

For Caveh Zahedi, "the spirituality is not the ersatz spirituality of a Blade Runner or Total Recall or Paycheck, but the imminent and lived spirituality of ordinary existence."

"Reality obfuscates as the film proceeds," writes MS Smith, "but therein lies the achievement; as in life, when things fail to make sense, they become more ominous, while the differences between right and wrong become compromised."

Updated through 7/20.

"Thank heaven it was Linklater who finally made the film," writes C Jerry Kutner at Bright Lights. "The result is the most faithful adaptation of any PKD novel or story filmed to date." Like the Telegraph's SF Said, Kutner considers past adaptations while, at Screengrab, Gabriel Mckee imagines the Philip K Dick movies that might have been.

A Scanner Darkly: Keanu Reeves Slate's Dana Stevens: "'Let's hear it for the vague blur.' It's a line lifted from Philip K Dick's novel of transmuting identities, but it's also the perfect motto for Keanu Reeves' film career."

John Patterson in the Guardian: "If you're making a serious movie about drugs, it doesn't hurt to assemble a cast that knows whereof it collectively speaks."

Pointing to Joshua Jabcuga's 2003 piece for what was then Movie Poop Shoot, Rex Sorgatz reminds us that Charlie Kaufman once wrote a screenplay based on the novel as well.

And the PKD android is still missing; Steve Ramos has an update for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Online viewing tip. AICN's Merrick has found the first 24 minutes of the movie at IGN.

Update, 7/16: "[T]he 'look and feel' of the rotoscope technique is itself the real meaning of the film." Steven Shaviro has a very fine entry on this "great film."

Update, 7/17: Mike Russell has worked his interview into a comic that's appeared in the Boston Globe and the Oregonian, and what's more, he's added a few links to that entry as well.

Update, 7/20: Daniel Kasman: "What is odd, and in the end, disappointing, about Linklater's animating of his film is that while Arctor is continually told he is going insane, the natural fluidity and before-your-eyes malleable possibilities of the film world are almost never used to express this mind state."

Posted by dwhudson at 9:15 AM

July 14, 2006

Brooklyn Rail. July/August 06.

Brooklyn Rail: July/August 06 Via Invisible Cinema comes a reminder to check the Brooklyn Rail every once in a while, dammit. Jennifer Macmillan points specifically to Brian Frye's interview with Bruce McClure; from the intro: "Twirling knobs, flipping switches, and adjusting lenses, he coaxes a bank of whirring projectors into producing images impossible to record: moire patterns dancing in mid-air, a glowing orb rising from the surface of the screen, prismatic bursts flashing about the room."

And there's more in the July/August issue. Williams Cole interviews Albert Maysles. First question: "What is your central philosophy of filmmaking?" Well. Cole also recommends a few docs and plugs the Ironweed Film Club.

P.P.P: Pier Paolo Pasolini Nora Griffin reviews an object I paged through late last year in Munich before deciding it was too expensive, even as a souvenir of a very enjoyable afternoon: "Released last year in conjunction with a German exhibition of the same name, P.P.P: Pier Paolo Pasolini (Hatje Cantz, 2005) attempts to unify his oeuvre into one comprehensive monograph... [and] results in a conflict between visually exciting graphic design that seeks to brand the filmmaker for 'cool' consumption, and academic writing that secures his art in an ivory tower of theory."

David Levi Strauss offers a paper he delivered in March, "Magic and the American Avant-Garde Cinema."

Also: David N Meyer on 13 (Tzameti), Tessa DeCarlo on the newish Omen and a DVD roundup: À Nos Amours, The Searchers and Burst City.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:13 PM | Comments (1)

Edmond.

Edmond "In Edmond, William H Macy is perfectly cast as a prim Manhattan businessman who heeds his inner demons and plummets into free fall," writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times.

The Nation's Stuart Klawans discloses that he's worked with both director Stuart Gordon and David Mamet, who wrote the play ("probably as close as we'll get to an American Woyzeck") and screenplay, "So if you want a review by someone who has never been touched by talented people, please consult another critic. This one says that every moment of Edmond is extraordinary... There's exhilaration in seeing to the bottom of things you ordinarily don't even want to look at."

Updated through 7/17.

"[I]t's hilarious, and contains some of Mamet's best dialogue," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "[S]omehow, by making a racist, murderous, Everycreep his protagonist, Mamet is able to produce some of his most penetrating psychological and spiritual insights."

"Why did Mamet choose to keep his material tethered to a certain time and place, which so clearly saps its relevance?" wonders Ryan Stewart at Cinematical. Besides, "There are a few moments when [Gordon] makes Edmond feel like a slasher film that just happens to have a low body count."

IndieWIRE's set of questions goes out to Gordon this week. Related: At the main site, Jonathan Marlow and Patrick Mathewes's 2003 interview with Gordon is highlighted again.

Peter Smith talks with Macy for Nerve.

Online listening tip. David Edelstein's review for NPR.

Update, 7/17: Cinematical's Ryan Stewart talks with Bai Ling.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:13 PM

Blue Velvet.

Blue Velvet "What's interesting about watching Blue Velvet 20 years after it was made is not that it finds us wallowing in the swampy nihilism of Frank Booth-land but that it finds us clinging to the fantasies of home, hearth and wholesomeness," writes Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times. "We may be soaking in another reversion to idealistic conservatism, Hollywood-inspired political posturing and empty mass-culture referentiality, but it's hard not to notice how postmodern, how pliable and un-curious, our inner Jeffrey has become."

"Has any movie since created such a stir (by which I mean a sea change in the way we look at movies - Breathless, Bonnie and Clyde, The Godfather - and not just a Passion of the Christ-sized controversy)?" asks Scott Foundas. "Will any movie ever again? What dazzles still about David Lynch's Blue Velvet is its total authority: Not a single false gesture."

The LA Weekly's also running the review John Powers wrote in 1986: "Blue Velvet has the air of a movie that flows out of the artist's obsessions the way silk comes from the worm; in Susan Sontag's terms, it has been 'secreted, not constructed.'" And there's his interview with David Lynch, too, which ran in the same issue.

"While a sequel to Blue Velvet would have been about as likely as Citizen Kane 2, Twin Peaks - an attenuated version of the same turf - was presumably conceived as (in spirit) Blue Velvet: The Series," Andy Klein reminds us in the LA CityBeat. "During its first 15 or 16 episodes, the show provided a more leisurely tour of the fascinating, scary jungle of Lynch's subconscious. (While it's hard to say that Blue Velvet, for all its notoriety, was influential, Twin Peaks, its serial cousin, has been remarkably so, paving the way for The X-Files, American Gothic, Carnivale, and others.)"

Exactly one month ago, when the revival was in Boston, Peter Keough wrote in the Phoenix, "Having watched Blue Velvet a dozen or more times, and being a film critic, I can be more reflective during some of its more outrageous and harrowing moments. Dorothy, even as she wields a butcher knife and starts snipping at Jeffrey's extremities, brings to mind Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz, a reasonable enough comparison since every Lynch movie, probably every movie made since 1939, alludes to that ur-text." The weekly also re-ran Owen Glieberman's 1986 review and talk with Lynch.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:08 AM | Comments (1)

Interview. François Ozon.

A Time to Leave Time to Leave is "notable as one of the rare [François] Ozon films that offers up a protagonist we could possibly see as a projection of Ozon himself," notes Hannah Eaves, introducing her interview at the main site.

"At times, Ozon has dabbled in the role of provocateur, but he plays Time to Leave disappointingly straight," writes Steve Erickson in Gay City News. "Melodrama has attracted gay directors as different as Ozon, Todd Haynes, and Stanley Kwan. Ozon is too knowing not to be aware of its pitfalls - or the pointlessness of camping it up or parodying it - but he still falls prey to it."

"Curiously, the melodramatic elements of Time to Leave - the moments of emotional display, the surges of music — help to insulate the film from sentimentality," writes AO Scott in the New York Times, adding that the film, "in the end, explains very little, choosing instead to emphasize the essential paradox that an individual's life is never complete and always over too soon."

Updated through 7/20.

Earlier: Paul Fileri in Film Comment.

Updates: Salon's Andrew O'Hehir: "It's a magnificent miniature, a supremely tender work that's full of emotion and even sentimentality, but that never stoops to fulfill the audience's wishes or tries to make Romain ([Melvil] Poupaud) any more likable on death's door than he was before."

Stuart Klawans in the Nation: "In the past, I have tended to resist Ozon's immaculate, manipulative style and artifice-laden stories. (His biggest hit, The Swimming Pool, struck me as being a Russ Meyer movie with brie.) But in Time to Leave, Ozon has poked through the Saran Wrap of his own cleverness to touch on feelings that are simple and sincere."

At the IFC Blog, Alison Willmore calls Time to Leave "the most arty of guilty pleasures, a decadent and moving melodrama in which someone folds up the loose ends of his life like a blanket to be tucked away - the feel-good death film of the summer."

Update, 7/17: For the Lumière Reader, David Levinson reviews 5x2, in which "Ozon confronts the morbid persistence of human hearts (and human loins) in the face of certain failure."

Update, 7/18: "Though the French director may not sidestep cliches endemic to the subject matter, his desire to provoke a quieter meditation upon mortality - rather than simply court tears - makes this an interestingly flawed project." Michael Koresky opens the Reverse Shot round at indieWIRE.

Updates, 7/20: "Fatality has, somehow, enriched Ozon's art." Armond White in the New York Press.

"For anyone who has remained on the fence about Ozon's weird progression from French enfant terrible to purveyor of mild middlebrow weepies, Time to Leave might force you to lose your balance a little," writes Robbie Freeling at the Reverseblog.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:50 AM

July 13, 2006

Primer. Political Thrillers.

The Manchurian Candidate
For [Richard] Condon, the ugliest political struggles exist within families. The relations between political scion Raymond Shaw and his mother and stepfather are characterized by shady alliances, duplicity, manipulation and mind control - a microcosm of the larger international story line. The political arena is merely a larger stage for the psychological tensions and conflicts that bind families and tear them apart. If you want to know the true nature of what goes on in Washington, Condon is saying, look no further than your family homestead.

Steve Goldstein on John Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate in our latest primer, "Political Thrillers," ranging from Welles and Hitchcock to Oliver Stone and David Mamet by way of Pakula, Coppola, Antonioni and Costa-Gavras to name a few.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:12 PM | Comments (1)

Red Buttons, 1919 - 2006.

Red Buttons
Boy, this is not a good week for celebrities. Now, Oscar winner Red Buttons (for Sayonara) has passed away at 87.

Edward Copeland lists and adds notes to a few highlights of his long career.

With his eager manner and rapid-fire wit, Buttons excelled in every phase of show business, from the Borscht Belt of the 1930s to celebrity roasts in the 1990s.

[...]

The Red Buttons Show was first broadcast on CBS Oct. 14, 1952... Buttons drew on all his past experience for monologues, songs, dances and sketches featuring such characters as a punch-drunk fighter, a scrappy street kid, a Sad Sack GI and a blundering German. The hit of the show was a silly song in which he pranced about the stage singing, "Ho! Ho!... He! He!... Ha! Ha!... Strange things are happening!" It became a national craze.

Bob Thomas for the AP.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:48 PM

Film Comment. July/August 06.

Film Comment: July/August 06 There are more "Online Exclusives" up at the Film Comment site than selections from the new issue, and you'll find no complaints here. Seems to be an interesting experiment; part of Gavin Smith's interview with Richard Linklater appears in print, while the second part's here. You'll find Linklater as relaxed as always, describing the casual way he goes about coming up with ideas for and then realizing some of the most unique American films being made these days. And you'll learn that both his Chet Baker with Ethan Hawke and his "[k]ind of a baseball movie, kind of a college movie, loosely autobiographical," are still on.

Henry K Miller has a longish essay on Peter Whitehead, whose "biography reads a little like the lyrics for 'Sympathy for the Devil,' a string of assignations with key figures at key points in the history of the counterculture. But despite the apparent ease with which he found himself moving and shaking in the right places at the right times, much of the strength of his work derives from the uneasy relationship between his present-tense hipsterdom and a submerged past emblematic of England's default wretchedness."

"As they say in Sequelville: this time it's personal," writes Rob Nelson. "Notwithstanding the auteur's typical bids at catharsis through the blatant bitch-slapping of taboos (e.g., 'interspecies erotica' and, alas, the N-word), Clerks II is unique in the [Kevin] Smith oeuvre for being genuinely bittersweet."

Now here's a pleasantly engaging summer read: a conversation between Elaine May and Mike Nichols which followed a screening of Ishtar - Nichols calls it "a road movie about the Middle East" and a "prescient" one at that. Then they get into trading stories and all. Nice.

Illumination Chris Chang calls out for a distributor for Pascale Breton's "hypnotic debut feature," Illumination.

"The New World was picked as the flagship for Smell-O-Vision 2006 not because Malick's complex orchestration of image and sound cried out to be raised to the Gesamtkunstwerk level but because the Japanese distributor saw the film as essentially a love story in a pastoral setting and, as such, ideal for aroma enhancement," explains Chris Fujiwara, who adds, "On the whole, the experience was like watching a movie while an aromatherapy clinic was being held in the lobby."

Besides offering a handy index-card-size guide to François Ozon's oeuvre midway through, Paul Fileri reviews Time to Leave, seeing it, to some extent, as a set-up for volume three of an ongoing trilogy.

Ok, who went and extended an "uncritical embrace" to Ron Rosenbaum's piece in the New York Observer, "The Scott Disorder: Of Brother Directors, Tony's the Great One"? Amy Taubin would like to have a word - several words - with you.

Finally, there's a plug for a July 24 screening of The Descent at the Walter Reade; director Neil Marshall's expected to attend.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:20 AM

SFSFF. Preview.

Previewing the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (Friday through Sunday), Jonathan Marlow saves his most urgent recommendation for last.

San Francisco Silent Film Festival In October of 1998, while living briefly in Berlin, I made my first visit to a small city north of Venice. I had read many times of a festival there devoted exclusively to silent motion pictures and this particular year marked a retrospective of work from the legendary Fox Film Corporation, the company that brought Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau to Hollywood. Known as Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, or more commonly as the Pordenone Silent Film Festival despite the slight detail that it has occurred in the neighboring city of Sacile for the past few years, the event is a wonderful showcase of works restored by the various archives of the world. Granted, there are similar festivals elsewhere - Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna and the Festival of Preservation in Los Angeles, among others. However, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto is the event most likely to include an overwhelming number of films unseen for decades that might remain unseen for nearly as long thereafter.

This pilgrimage to Pordenone remains my favorite festival-going experience and, although I haven't been able to attend in recent years, the voyage to Italy provides a wonderful occasion to see the same sizeable group of friends and acquaintances that attend annually. Relocating to San Francisco, I was pleased to discover a number of venues that catered to aficionados of the pre-sound era - David Packard's Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto, the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley and the Silent Film Museum in Niles (sponsors of the excellent if under-publicized Bronco Billy Film Festival). The jewel of the Bay has the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, now in its eleventh year.

Seventh Heaven SFSFF presents a fair opportunity for folks new to silent cinema as well as for knowledgeable cineastes to savor an equal mix of somewhat well-known classics along with relative obscurities. Of the former, the Oscar-winning opening night film, Seventh Heaven, recognizes the centenary of star Janet Gaynor and the first of many respected pairings with Charles Farrell. Its syrupy melodrama and creaking sentimentality can still bring tears to your eyes. I first saw the film during that maiden journey to Pordenone and, in the context of a mad rush of multiple Gaynor performances, Seventh Heaven can be quite affecting. Perhaps most striking, though, is her appearance in the John Ford rarity Shamrock Handicap which receives a long-awaited screening next month during an exceptional late-July-to-mid-August series of Gaynor's films at the PFA.

An entirely other Ford film, Bucking Broadway, opens SFSFF's Saturday program. Simply for the opportunity of seeing one of Harry Carey and Ford's earliest collaborations, this rollicking romp of cowboys in the big city is a must-see. Similarly worthy of recommendation, Au bonheur des dames, a mid-career Julien Duvivier effort adapted from Émile Zola which could be viewed as a post-Bastille Day treat with musical accompaniment from the Hot Club of San Francisco. The following afternoon offers The Girl with the Hatbox, a Soviet comedy which bears a passing resemblance to René Clair's magnificent Le Million. All three of these efforts are rarely shown in theaters, infrequently appear on television and, except for the latter, are unavailable on video.

The Unholy Three If "classics" are more your speed, perhaps you would prefer Mary Pickford in the pleasant peasant story, Sparrows, Lon Chaney in Tod (Freaks) Browning's queer The Unholy Three (later remade in 1930 as a sound picture, still starring Chaney but directed by Jack Conway), or Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel in a trio (or secretly promised quartet) of shorts, including the wacky Wrong Again. If you thought that Un chien andalou was the only film to put a four-legged animal on top of a grand piano, you would be quite mistaken. Same year, opposite sides of the Atlantic, proving that the distance between Leo McCarey and Luis Buñuel was less daunting than you might otherwise suspect. The true highlights of the program, however, are unsurprisingly reserved for the evening slots.

It is part of film history folly to presume that Susan Alexander character in Citizen Kane was a direct reference to Marion Davies, an implication of a no-talent trophy mistress. Davies was an incredibly skilled actress, best suited for comedy but forced into a number of dreary dramas at the insistence of William Randolph Hearst. Arguably her greatest performance can be seen in the excellent Show People, the tale of a young lady trying to break into show business, sublimely directed by King Vidor. A number of celebrities - Douglas Fairbanks and Charles Chaplin among them - make brief cameos, but Marion steals the Show with her remarkable impersonations of other leading ladies (Lillian Gish, in particular). As grand as this final movie in the program might be, nothing in the entire weekend touches the Saturday evening closer - Pandora's Box, one of the greatest motion pictures ever made.

Pandora's Box

It was considered a certain career-ending disaster when the lovely Louise Brooks, a former professional dancer and ex-ladyfriend of the aforementioned Chaplin, decided to refuse her new Paramount contract and accept an offer to travel to Germany and make a film with Georg Wilhelm Pabst. Pabst was not an entirely unknown figure. He was already somewhat recognized in these parts for The Joyless Street (Greta Garbo's last film before departing for the US) and The Love of Jeanne Ney (starring Brigitte Helm, best known for Metropolis) but, while Ernst Lubitsch, Billy Wilder and other directors ventured to Hollywood, GW stayed in Germany. It is said that he spent many months looking for a lead for his adaptation of the Frank Wedekind play. On seeing Brooks in Howard Hawks's A Girl in Every Port, Pabst knew that he'd found his star.

Pandora's Box

Pandora's Box, more than any other in her 24-film career, remains the film for which Brooks is most fondly remembered, although her legendary locks date back as far as her first feature, The Street of Forgotten Men, four years earlier. On paper, it is the tale of a vamp that destroys the lives of the men around her. The genius of Pabst and Brooks, however, was to play the lost girl as an innocent. It is an essential display of the Kuleshov Effect; the audience projects whatever they want onto the carefree Lulu. This ambiguity inevitably adds to its greatness. Is she provocateur or prey? Villain or victim? It is unfortunate that the director and his perfect muse made only two films together. After their second collaboration, Brooks retreated back to America and to an industry that was no longer interested in her abilities. Her first work after returning to the States was a picture directed by the similarly blacklisted Roscoe Arbuckle (working under a pseudonym); her last before a self-imposed retirement had her playing against John Wayne a few months before Stagecoach.

Pandora's Box

It's often claimed that they don't make 'em like they used to. In truth, they haven't made a film quite this good in over seventy years. If you're in the neighborhood, you'll have a rare opportunity to see for yourself - in the ornate Castro Theatre with an enthusiastic audience, it will be akin to a time machine transporting you back to 1929, when Berlin was the center of the artistic world.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:45 AM | Comments (1)

July 12, 2006

Shorts, 7/12.

Miami Vice David Poland: "Miami Vice is that summer movie that a lot of people have been waiting for, something for the adults to see, something that demands that you pay attention, something that doesn't pre-chew your experience for you and drop it into your beak like a mama bird, something with adults having relationships (with their clothes on and off) and dealing with some serious issues... and lots of guns & drugs."

For Jeffrey Wells, it's "my kind of two-hour popcorn movie... a crime movie that just roars in and does the job."

"[I]n Stagecoach, John Ford pits the idea of America against the rigidity of Americanism," argues Charles Taylor in the New York Observer.

Meanwhile, Geoffrey Andersen: "Stephen Metcalf's iconoclastic assessment of John Ford's The Searchers was blasted with a fusillade of canon ire by outraged film lovers in our Dilettante Fray." Also at Slate: Troy Patterson riffs on the Amanda Congdon-Rocketboom split. Related listening: Future Tense.

If you could read anyone's weekend viewing notes, wouldn't you read Dave Kehr's?

Michael Atkinson does some heavy lifting in this week's Village Voice, reviewing the overlooked Overlord - "[Stuart] Cooper's ambitions were primarily textural" - and Edmond, "a pleasant actor's spectacle, oldfangled and splenetic and self-conscious.... all sizzle and little meat, a veritable tangent act dropped from Glengarry Glen Ross because it was several marks too silly." (More from Jeremiah Kipp at Slant.) Also, with Changing Times, André Téchiné has become "the premier Gallic pilot of high-toned soap opera." (More from Noel Murray at the AV Club.) Plus: Electric Edwardians and Haneke's 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance. More on Haneke from Edward Copeland.

Chris Cagle at Left Center Left on Peter Watkins: "His films can be frustrating, emotionally intense and even politically problematic, but they're also smart, nailbitingly suspenseful, and timely to today's topical issues." Via Paul Harrill, who notes that Cagle "has recently started Category D, a promising new blog that concerns the academic scholarship of film and media studies."

Ed Phillips, in a post to Nettime, on Zizek!: "It's not the jokes per se or even the pop culture references, but what he does with them, how he uses them to try to understand or to short circuit his own and other's understandings of the contemporary condition."

Girish: "Some of my favorite filmmakers both past and present - Renoir, Hou - use long takes, so I thought it might be a good idea to spend some time reflecting on this valuable stylistic device."

The President Acquarello on Dreyer's 1919 film, The President: "Even at this early juncture, Dreyer incorporates elements that would become immediately identifiable with his cinema."

MS Smith explains why, for him, Susan Sontag's "main achievement was her revision of the purpose of film criticism."

In the Guardian:

  • "So why, you scurvy seadogs, are we so fascinated with pirates?" asks Brian Logan, who then traces the myth-making back to 1724.

  • John Woodward, chief exec of the UK Film Council, responds to producer Guy de Beaujeu's complaints about the state of the British film industry.

  • Laura K Jones talks with Martin Creed about his Sick Film and his Shit Film.

  • Audrey Gillan: "Syd Barrett, the former lead singer of Pink Floyd and one of the key figures of the 60s, has died at the Cambridgeshire home to which he retreated as a recluse more than 30 years ago." More from More from Nick Kent, John Harris, Rick Moody and Michael Hann; and in Slate, Jody Rosen: "Barrett was a terrific craftsman, and neither the dissonance and clatter of his soundscapes nor the cheery freakiness of his lyrics could hide the songs' essential classicism. Had Barrett been born 30 years earlier, and done several thousand fewer hits of LSD, he could have made a fine living on Tin Pan Alley." Related online viewing at sharpeworld.

That photo of Constanze Mozart? Probably a hoax. Rats. Via Alex Ross.

The Bell Jar In the Independent, Christina Patterson talks briefly with Julia Stiles about her plans to adapt Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar before turning to the question as to why it was to become "one of the most influential novels of the 20th century." Also, Liz Hoggard on high school movies: "Films that tackle cliques and bullying are the backbone of modern independent cinema (probably because so many indie directors grew up feeling like outsiders themselves)."

Jon Lebkowsky: "In March I posted about the detention of filmmaker Hao Wu (or Wu Hao) in China, with a rather bleak update a couple of weeks later. Good news: he's been released."

Billy Golfus's 1994 film When Billy Broke His Head... and Other Tales of Wonder "won Best Documentary at 27 film festivals, played on TV in 17 countries, collected an Emmy nomination, and captured the Freedom of Expression award at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival," notes Britt Robson, who talks with him in the City Pages about why it is he can't get his next project off the ground.

Cheryl Eddy in the San Francisco Bay Guardian: "A festival sensation by Australian writer-director and animator Sarah Watt, Look Both Ways isn't actually the feel-bad movie of the year. It's probably the sunniest movie about death you'll ever see, and one that captures the awkwardness of life with unusual accuracy." Also, Rise Above: The Tribe 8 Documentary.

"A major studio film about how corrupt the major movie studios can be for the sake of making a profit... is it corrupt of them to release a movie about how corrupt they are, just to make a profit?" Many try, few succeed - Gwynne Watkins's trailer roundups for Nerve's ScreenGrab are actually funny.

David Austin rounds up Cinema Strikes Back's DVDs of the week; also, Jeff on the Ramsey Brothers and their Bollywood horror movie, Hotel.

Anne Thompson has news of releases of fresh prints of eight films by Pedro Almodóvar in the run-up to the US theatrical release of Volver.

Shawn Levy in the Oregonian: "At 43, with nearly three dozen films to his credit, Johnny Depp is one of a small handful of actors who can do both: dazzle us with perverse displays of witty grotesquerie or inhabit a character so completely that we can't remember what he's really like - or seems really to be like - off-screen."

"The summer blockbuster is back," announces a New York Times editorial. Why? Anyway, also:

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

Nick Rombes on film stills: "Their 'third meaning' would allow us to trace a different, perhaps secret history, one that takes us into the realm of art - not film - criticism. Someday, these images will be liberated from their films."

Jeffrey M Anderson lists the seven "Oddest Director/Actor Combos" at Cinematical.

Oliver Reed + Hammer = an " attempt at combining horror with a kind of James Dean-Marlon Brando hipness factor." Peter Nellhaus explains.

In the Los Angeles Times:

John Gregory Dunne: Regards

The IFC Blog's Alison Willmore rounds up reactions to Michael Bamberger's The Man Who Heard Voices: Or, How M Night Shyamalan Risked His Career on a Fairy Tale.

Joe Bowman lists and annotates 25 films he watched at college.

Up-n-coming:

"[T]he movie business in Japan generally seems to be picking up, just at a time when the government has instituted new measures to promote filmmaking and film culture and when film schools are sprouting up all over the place." Aaron Gerow takes "a closer look" at Midnight Eye.

Online listening tip #1. Matthew Baldwin (Defective Yeti) talks about movie blogs on The Works, a program on KUOW, Puget Sound Public Radio. Via Posterwire.com, and many thanks to both Matthew Baldwin and Posterwire for the kind words!

Online listening tip #2. At Salon, Thomas Bartlett points to Roommate's "RP (Forget the Metaphors)," "a hilarious, bizarre and strangely moving song about River Phoenix."

Online listening tip #3. Brendon Connelly gathers links to all four parts of Quick Stop's Terry Gilliam interview in one entry.

Online viewing tip #1. wood s lot points to Stan Brakhage.

Online viewing tip #2. Screenhead's found a Soderbergh short.

Online viewing tips, round 1. Filmbrain finally gets his hands on a "forgotten minor-masterpiece of 60s culture" and points to a few clips.

Online viewing tips, round 2. A second edition of Erik Davis's "Eat My Shorts" at Cinematical.

Online viewing tips, round 3. At Twitch, Wolf points to the trailer for The Quiet and Todd's got the trailer and clips for Michele Soavi's Arrivederci Amore Ciao, a trailer for American Hardcore and another for The Illusionist.

Online viewing tips, round 4. Chuck Tryon wonders what's actually going on in these Wal-Mart dance videos.

Online viewing tips, round 5. The latest edition of "Internet Archive Watch" at The Crime in Your Coffee.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:05 PM

Fests and events, 7/12.

Beefcake Babylon Beefcake Babylon: The Iconography of Sword and Sandal Epics from DeMille to Fellini is an exhibition opening at the Drkrm Gallery in Los Angeles on Friday and running through September 23.

Johnny Ray Huston in the San Francisco Bay Guardian: "The treats at this year's San Francisco Silent Film Festival include Frank Borzage's Seventh Heaven and Madonna muse Dita Parlo in Au Bonheur des Dames with live music by the Hot Club. But all of this city's imps of the perverse will be gathering for The Unholy Three (screening Sun/16 at 5 pm), if only to pay homage to [Tod] Browning, 'Man of a Thousand Faces' Lon Chaney, and mein liebchen, the one and only Harry Earles (real name: Kurt Schneider), who later approached Browning with the idea of turning the Tod Robbins story 'Spurs' into what became 1932's nightmarish and unforgettable Freaks." More from David Jeffers at the Siffblog. Related: the cinetrix on Pandora's Box.

Ozon at the Beach is a brief tribute (today and tomorrow at MoMA). Dennis Lim: "A onetime enfant terrible, [François] Ozon has been moving toward more conventional material - even if, as in 5x2, this maturation is in the service of destabilizing conventions. But Time to Leave amounts simply to a semi-thoughtful disease-of-the-week weepie, admirable in its restraint but shying from the terror of the situation." (More from Scott Tobias in the AV Club.) Also, a peek ahead at the Asian American International Film Festival (tomorrow through July 21).

And also in the Voice:

Matt Dentler to his fellow Austinites: "See Luke Savisky on Thursday!"

The Philadelphia Weekly spotlights a few selections from the Philadelphia International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (tomorrow through July 25).

Reprise Ronald Bergan hits the highlights of Karlovy Vary, "one of Europe's largest and most vibrant film festivals," including, "Most refreshing of all, from Norway, Joachim Trier's first feature, Reprise, a sort of Norwegian Coupling or Seinfeld with tragic overtones." More from Dave Calhoun at Time Out, where Mark Salisbury reports on the first International Screenwriters' Festival.

For the Jerusalem Post, Hannah Brown reports on the Life Achievement Award presented to Roman Polanski at the Jerusalem Film Festival; via André Soares, who quotes fest director Lia Van Leer's frisky poem.

The Guardian's Xan Brooks: "The 60th Edinburgh film festival [August 14 through 27] will kick off with the world premiere of The Flying Scotsman, a homegrown Scottish production starring Jonny Lee Miller, Brian Cox and Billy Boyd."

Online viewing tip. "30 brilliant shorts selected out of 616 entries from 54 countries" can be viewed in the Third Festival Screening Room of the Con-Can Movie Festival. Via Coudal Partners, now working on 72°.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:17 PM

Gabrielle.

Gabrielle "Relationship dramas can rarely be described as spooky, but Gabrielle, like Conrad's story, is a bona-fide creepshow, complete with scaremonger 'jumps' of the horror variety." Leah Churner leads Reverse Shot's round on Patrice Chéreau's latest at indieWIRE.

For the AV Club's Scott Tobias, it's "a bravura exercise in shifting power dynamics, punctuated by bold stylistic touches such as jolting cuts from color to black-and-white, dramatic swells in the classical score, and screen-spanning intertitles that serve as exclamation points to several key scenes. In Chéreau's hands, Gabrielle has an operatic quality that throws the repressive environment into sharp relief; the film works like a pressure cooker, seething with bottled passions that intermittently burst through with startling cruelty and violence."

In the Voice, Dennis Lim calls it "a stunning reinvention of the period chamber drama."

Updated through 7/14.

Related: "Who knew July was French cinema month?" asks Anthony Kaufman in an entry following up on his piece for indieWIRE.

Updates, 7/14: A "film of eccentric beauty and wild feeling," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. Chéreau's "theater background may help account for the consistently fine acting in his films, while his staging of Wagner may explain the wonderful fearlessness with which he embraces melodramatic excess."

For Steve Erickson, writing in Gay City News, Gabrielle "has more in common with Ingmar Bergman than Merchant-Ivory. Paradoxically but excitingly, it brings a rare degree of immediacy to a story that reminds us that the past is a foreign country."

Salon's Andrew O'Hehir: "I found it a haunting and riveting work, unlike anything else you can see at the movies and as such an explicit challenge to the unambitious, anesthetic character of most contemporary cinema. But is it easy, or delightful, or fun? It is not."

Stanley Kauffmann in the New Republic: "So much of this adaptation is engrossing that the script's additions are jarring... These interpolations, though they can just possibly be mined out of Conrad, still smack of movie-making."

"Not just another movie," offers Armond White in the New York Press, "it's an experiment in how movies depict relationships and emotion, testing the means by which movies become art."

For the Nation's Stuart Klawans, "the force of Gabrielle lies in the faces."

Online listening tip. Chéreau on the Leonard Lopate Show.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:49 PM | Comments (1)

Excellent Cadavers.

Excellent Cadavers "Opening with its hero's dramatic death on the highway, Excellent Cadavers is seldom at a loss for excitement," writes Joshua Land in the Voice. "The details may remain a bit sketchy for viewers unfamiliar with the miasma of Italian politics, but Berlusconi's anti-judicial rhetoric, which could have been copped from a Tom DeLay rant against activist judges, should provide an equal-opportunity shudder."

The New Republic's Stanley Kauffmann: "What is strangely transfixing about the film is our agreement, from the beginning, that the struggle is hopeless. The Mafia is there to stay (with American branches). What is equally strange is that though we know in advance the general shape of the events - from numerous films and press reports - the story grips."

Updated through 7/14.

"[Director Marco] Turco and [author Alexander] Stille do not dwell on the Mafia as a historical or sociological phenomenon, emphasizing its dysfunctional relationship with the postwar Italian state rather than its older roots in Sicilian culture," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "This may be part of their film's corrective intention: their Mafia is not the colorful, violent flowering of ancient Mediterranean peasant customs, but rather a thoroughly vicious organization bent on the subversion of democratic norms and the brutal elimination of anyone who dares to oppose its ambitions."

More from the AV Club's Noel Murray.

Online listening tip. Alexander Stille, author of the book on which this and another film have been based, was a guest on the Leonard Lopate Show on Friday. Related: At Salon, Farhad Manjoo reviews Stille's The Sack of Rome: How a Beautiful Country with a Fabled History and Storied Culture Was Taken Over by a Man Named Silvio Berlusconi.

Earlier: Reviews from Cannes of Nanni Moretti's Il Caimano; the opening in March; first impressions of Bye Bye Berlusconi!.

Update: Martha Fischer at Cinematical: "In a time and field in which ego is frequently a driving force, to see two men [magistrates Paolo Borsellino and Giovanni Falcone] so free of pretense doing such important work is surprisingly moving."

Update, 7/14: "I can't speak too highly of Marco Turco's Excellent Cadavers," writes Andrew O'Hehir in Salon. "[J]ust as Italian fascism reinvented itself under Silvio Berlusconi, so did the Mafia adapt to a new era. In the end, Stille suggests, the more things change in Italy, the more they stay the same."

Posted by dwhudson at 6:04 AM

Barnard Hughes, 1915 - 2006.

Playbill: Barnard Hughes
Barnard Hughes, who won a Tony for his portrayal of the curmudgeonly title character in Hugh Leonard's Da, has died after a brief illness. He was 90.

[...]

He received a featured-actor Tony nomination in 1973 for his performance as Dogberry in the New York Shakespeare Festival's revival of Much Ado About Nothing. Hughes' last Broadway appearance came in the Noel Coward comedy Waiting in the Wings in 1999.

Among his many movies: Midnight Cowboy, The Hospital, Cold Turkey, Where's Poppa?, Oh, God!, Maxie, The Lost Boys, Doc Hollywood, Sister Act 2 and Cradle Will Rock.

Hughes also worked extensively in the early days of television.

Michael Kuchwara for the AP.

Jeffrey Wells has a helluvan online listening tip.

Update: Edward Copeland has "picked some highlights (or notable films) out of his career to spotlight."

Posted by dwhudson at 4:26 AM

July 11, 2006

DVDs, 7/11.

There's a beat that "Shorts" here at the Daily miss all too often: new and notable reviews of DVDs. Sure, I get some in there, but not usually from sites devoted all but exclusively to the medium that's had a profound impact on film culture in just a few years. And so, generally on Tuesdays, DK Holm, Quick Stop Entertainment columnist and author of books on R Crumb, Tarantino and what he calls Film Soleil, will be making those rounds.

Yi Yi It's a typical DVD Tuesday, with a disparate group of about 40 Region 1 DVDs and, in the course of the week, several more R2 discs, amounting to a mix of nostalgic Hollywood revivals, double dipping reissues, TV shows, offbeat art films and recent multiplex fare hitting the shelves. And yet, as nearly always, it's the releases from the Criterion Collection that are met with the most anticipation.

At Ain't It Cool News, Moriarty first notes that Yi Yi has got a "great cover for a great film" and, in defiance of the site's reputation for fan boy priorities, he calls the film itself "a masterpiece of minimalism." Cemile Kavountzis of Entertainment Weekly finds Yi Yi (A One and a Two) (to give its full title) to be "a moving reflection on the everyday snapshots, both literally and metaphorically, that capture life's sometimes blurred three-dimensional complexity." And David Cornelius at DVD Talk says that Yi Yi "is a patient movie, and it shares its patience with its characters." Cornelius also finds the transfer a "stunning improvement" over the Winstar disc.

The other Criterion release of the day is Koko, a Talking Gorilla, Barbet Schroeder's documentary about the signing ape. Dawn Taylor at the DVD Journal judges that it "suffers a bit from that lack of documentary intent" yet concludes that the film remains "fascinating." For Gary W Tooze at DVDBeaver, Koko "sheds light on the ongoing ethical and philosophical debates over the individual rights of animals and brings us face-to-face with an amazing gorilla caught in the middle." DVDBeaver also offers, as always, lavish screen captures with which to evaluate the transfer.

Both The Matador and The Libertine have received a great deal of attention lately. JJB at the DVD Journal found that The Matador "delicately traces the intersection between two disparate worlds," while an unnamed reviewer at CurrentFilm.com appreciates that it is "the first movie I've seen in a while that feels too short."

Mike Russell at DVD Journal warns that The Libertine "is the sort of movie you hate to hate, because (a) it actually has artistic ambitions, and (b) it stars everyone's favorite bowl of thinking-man's ham salad, Johnny Depp," but in the end finds the film a stagey account of an ultimately unlikable man. Tooze at DVDBeaver notes that "the cast is good, but something didn't gel in the manner it was intended methinks." Gabriel Powers at DVDActive is harshest: "Boring would be the easiest way to describe The Libertine, pretentious would be another apt adjective, as would ineffective, melodramatic, and unnecessary."

On the international front, DVDActive's Scott McKenzie brings some insight into Michael Haneke and his work via the R2 British release of the controversial Funny Games:

[Haneke's theme is] the deconstruction of the bourgeois family unit. He takes a group of people with apparently happy lives and throws them into a situation where they must act out of character so we can see how they will react. In this case, the family home is invaded and they have nowhere to run. Haneke takes it to another level by almost invading the home himself. I got the feeling that Paul, the more intelligent of the boys, is the personification of the director, with his knowing glances to the camera and ability to manipulate the proceedings.

Finally, you'd expect reviews of Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction, a film seemingly built for revilement, would attract a few amusingly cutting put-downs. Instead, many scribes seemed to like it. The "funniest comedy of 2006 was sadly mis-marketed as a thriller," begins Dawn Taylor at the DVD Journal before going on to backhandedly praise the film while reviling it:

Despite working overtime to be all about sex, Basic Instinct 2 is a blazingly inhuman movie, never letting us forget for a moment that we're watching made-up characters being paraded around in ridiculous, unbelievable ways, from Catherine's collection of phallic lighters that look like architectural landmarks to the way [David] Thewlis's cop, despite finding curare in the dead guy's system and a fistful of drug-laced hypodermic needles in Catherine's river-plunged car, can't come up with a solid reason to charge her with anything.

The anonymous reviewer at CurrentFilm.com cuts to the chase by pointing out that the "unrated edition offers another 2 minutes of racy footage."

Posted by dwhudson at 6:15 AM | Comments (1)

Interview. Milestone co-founder Dennis Doros.

Beyond the Rocks Today sees two more landmark releases on DVD from Milestone Films: Beyond the Rocks, long believed to have been lost, is remarkable most of all for the pairing of Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino, offering "a fascinating chance to compare and contrast the playing styles of two of the silent era's most representative stars," writes Dave Kehr in the New York Times today; and Electric Edwardians: The Lost Films of Mitchell & Kenyon is a stunning, almost disturbing resurrection of an entire era.

Sean Axmaker talks with Milestone co-founder Dennis Doros not only about the nuts and bolts of restoring and bringing lost classics such as these, Piccadilly, I Am Cuba and other films to theaters and then to DVD, but also about the passion for film that drives him and his partner in business and marriage, Amy Heller. They also discuss the long struggle to revive Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep and plans for at least a dozen more releases in the near future.

Update, 7/14: Josh Rosenblatt reviews Edwardians and Beyond in the Austin Chronicle.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:22 AM | Comments (2)

July 10, 2006

June Allyson, 1917 - 2006.

June Allyson
June Allyson, the sunny, cracked-voiced "perfect wife" of James Stewart, Van Johnson and other movie heroes, has died, her daughter Pamela Allyson Powell said Monday. She was 88.

[...]

With typical wonderment, Allyson expressed surprise in a 1986 interview that she had ever become a movie star:

"I have big teeth. I lisp. My eyes disappear when I smile. My voice is funny. I don't sing like Judy Garland. I don't dance like Cyd Charisse. But women identify with me. And while men desire Cyd Charisse, they'd take me home to meet mom."

Bob Thomas for the AP.

The official site; the Wikipedia entry; more linkage at Classic Movies.

Updated through 7/12.

Updates, 7/12: Ronald Bergan in the Guardian: "When Allyson was cast against type - as, for example, José Ferrer's shrewish wife in The Shrike (1955) - 90% of the audience at a preview wrote on their cards that they would never accept her in a wicked role. As a result, the film ending was re-shot with the character seeing the error of her ways, though it was not enough to appease the fans and the film flopped. After that she returned to more exemplary uxorial roles."

In the New York Times, Aljean Harmetz recalls Janet Maslin's review of Allyson's autobiography in which Allyson came off sounding "like someone who has come to inhabit the very myths she helped to create on the screen."

Online viewing tip. A June Allyson Tribute via George Brown at Bright Lights.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:22 PM | Comments (3)

Shorts, 7/10.

"Ours is a culture notoriously uncomfortable with death," writes Holly Myers in "Nothing Happens to No One: The Death Trilogy of Gus Van Sant," a new piece for n+1:

Gerry

Yet it courses into our collective consciousness with renewed insistence every day. Death in Iraq, death in New Orleans, death in Sudan, Afghanistan, Israel, Indonesia. Death on local streetcorners and in apartment buildings down the block. More death than it seems possible to comprehend.

[...]

Taking the silence, the mystery, the essential unknowability of death as a given, Van Sant makes no attempt to interrogate or explain. He simply enacts this transition and encourages his viewers to watch.

The result is closer to meditation than to storytelling, and the films are difficult in the way that meditation is difficult, which has made them - Gerry in particular - a hard sell.... [T]his is cinema in a rare state of purity.

Besides two pieces on Guy Debord, the Winter 2006 issue of October features seven pieces by Béla Balázs, mostly on film, while Pavle Levi's "Doctor Hypnison and the Case of Written Cinema" closes the Spring 2006 issue. Via filmtagebuch.

Female Brando Robert Cashill's been doing a bit of summer reading. On Jon Krampner's Female Brando: The Legend of Kim Stanley: "With so much promising material, why isn't this book better?" On Lee Server's Ava Gardner: Love is Nothing: "You wonder: Did Stanley and Gardner meet? Did they talk about stealing husbands and boyfriends from Shelley Winters, who stole them right back?" Meanwhile, "I'm currently finishing up Kenneth D Ackerman's Boss Tweed, a superb biography of New York's legendary king of graft."

Girish's most recent bit of mind fodder: a snippet from a conversation between Ingmar Bergman and John Simon, dating back to at least before 1972, in which Godard, Pasolini and others are dismissed with seeming ease.

Zach Campbell imagines a debate on the value of the work of Vera Chytilová between Herbert Marcuse and Godard and Gorin.

Murnau's Faust FW Murnau's Faust is the latest addition to Slant's collection of "100 Essential Films. Fernando F Croce: "Siegfried Kracauer, after Caligari but still before Hitler, called Faust a simplistic battle of good versus evil that thoroughly vulgarized the nuances of the author, yet there is nothing simplistic about the raging storm of sights and emotions that makes Murnau's film such a staggering experience."

Reviews of new films:

Greylodge posts Wall Street Journal coverage of Greylodge: "It's the latest reflection of an online culture where fans can function as curators of digital entertainment, bypassing libraries and museums with their own collections of music or movies."

"We haven't arrived at our own moral and ethical imperatives by each of us working them out from first principles; we have inherited them and they were born out of blood and suffering, as all human things and human beings are." The Observer runs Stephen Fry's speech launching the History Matters initiative.

Also:

Sons of El Topo Todd has news of Alejandro Jodorowsky's The Sons of El Topo at Twitch.

AICN's Quint visits the set of Michael Bay's Transformers.

In the Los Angeles Times, Phillip Lopate reviews James Mottram's The Sundance Kids, "a valuable, detailed map to the newest New Wave in Hollywood," and Mary McNamara explains the new and complex obstacle course the $100-million-plus movie is now running in Hollywood.

Janet Maslin calls The Man Who Heard Voices: Or, How M Night Shyamalan Risked His Career on a Fairy Tale "not just a puff article but a full-length, unintentionally riotous puff book." Indeed; not long into the review, you can't help but start wondering if the book isn't some sort of elaborate joke.

Also in the in the New York Times:

  • Virginia Heffernan's very fine piece on Kyra Sedgwick in The Closer is also a quick primer on why playing the lead in a television series can be one of the toughest acting jobs to land.

  • Sharon Waxman: "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, the rollicking, effects-laden sequel starring an indelibly roguish Johnny Depp, pulverized several records in its first three days in theaters over the weekend, becoming the most successful movie opening in Hollywood history." As always, turn to David Poland for analysis.

  • Laura M Holson reports from Preston, Idaho on how the town's aiming to lure Napoleon Dynamite fans: "Other towns have done the same and prospered. Field of Dreams turned little-known Dyersville, Iowa into a tourist haven when that movie was released in 1989. Now about 65,000 people visit yearly. The Santa Ynez Valley in California became a popular vacation spot after Sideways was released two years ago. Even Metropolis, Ill experienced an increase in visitors after Superman Returns was released in theaters last month."

  • David Carr on The Devil Wears Prada and Anna Wintour: "She does not put a finger in the wind to judge trends: she is the wind.... Most mortals would have responded to a wide-screen depiction of their excesses by dressing in sackcloth and hiding in the basement. Ms Wintour donned Prada, natch, and went to a New York premiere." Related: "[C]ostumiers in the movies now are people who can have as much influence on public dress sense as the heads of the great fashion houses," writes David Thomson in the Independent.

  • Buying movie tickets online has yet to catch on, reports Bob Tedeschi.

  • Roger Cohen on what this year's World Cup has revealed about the latest version of Bush I's New World Order: "Where only a few years ago, the return of the capital to Berlin from Bonn was marked with an almost flagless, almost pageantry-free circumspection, now the national flag as sarong has become a fashion statement. Pretournament worrying about what racist thugs might do — 'We have been the undisputed world champions of worrying,' [Günter] Grass noted — has given way to a new German flexibility." Meanwhile, the US team "was the only one that traveled in an unmarked bus for fear of attack, and the only one that spent part of its time in Germany on a military base."

À nos amours "Why Maurice Pialat, who died in 2003, is not readily acknowledged as the greatest French director of his generation is a grand mystery," declares Travis Miles as he launches into a review of À nos amours for Stop Smiling.

"Quite unlike the saucy 1927 film of [Elinor] Glyn's It starring Clara Bow, Beyond the Rocks handles sexual desire from a distance," writes Ray Young at Flickhead. Nonetheless, the DVD (out tomorrow) is "another exceptional presentation from Milestone, a company with an unflagging devotion to the preservation of early cinema."

Adam Dobson for Metaphilm: "Trainspotting examines the tension caused by segregation and the demands of citizenship, and as such explains social problems as the denial of this tension. Denial is shown only to exacerbate the problems."

Peter Nellhaus on Roma Citta Libera: "While not a rediscovered masterpiece, this is a film that helps fill a missing piece in the overall history of Italian cinema."

Jeremy Knox at Film Threat: "Tokyo Zombie isn't the best zombie film I've seen, but it makes up to us with sheer exuberance and energy. From one minute to the next you don't know what you're going to see and that's the greatest experience in the world when you're watching a movie."

"Almost three years to the day after its premiere at the 2003 SF International LGBT Film Festival, Tracy Flannigan's Rise Above: The Tribe 8 Documentary is finally making its theatrical premiere in San Francisco, home for the long-running (though now defunct) lesbian punk band it scrutinizes." Dennis Harvey talks with Flannigan for SF360.

San Francisco Silent Film Festival opens on Friday and runs through the weekend; at the Siffblog, Anne M Hockens tells you why you want to go if you can. Also, David Jeffers on the star attraction, Pandora's Box.

"The fact is, spilling an ugly secret is the price of admission for the cover of Vanity Fair. And it's corporate policy." Bill Robinson, writing at the Huffington Post, blames Oprah.

Time's Richard Corliss picks 7 DVDs that "Show How Divine and Dramatic Dance Can Be."

Eugene Hernandez at indieWIRE: "With the goal of releasing six to eight films per year, Paul Hudson and Peter Peterson recently unveiled the launch slate for their new distrution company, Outsider Pictures."

Summer reading tip. Tim Lucas: "A couple of my friends have been using Lulu to make some interesting rare items available to a wider readership."

Online viewing tip #1. At Twitch, Todd's got the trailer for Zhang Yimou's Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles.

Online viewing tip #2. Movie City News points to the trailer for Night at the Museum.

Online viewing tip #3. The trailer for Opie Gets Laid, screening at Dances With Films on July 25.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:13 AM

July 9, 2006

Undercurrent. 2.

Zemlya You'll want to wander the Alexander Dovzhenko Virtual Exhibition first. It'll set the mood for the essay that opens the second issue of Undercurrent in which Marco Carynnyk, telling the story behind Earth, anchors all that the exhibition evokes: "Dovzhenko was more ambiguous, more nuanced, than his critics, either pro- or anti-Soviet, allowed. He was a party member for only three years. He never mastered Marx. He had little to say about Lenin, and even that was a measure of what the party demanded from every writer and filmmaker rather than of his own convictions."

Editor Chris Fujiwara revisits Madigan to show that Don Siegel was more than "a master of the mechanics of such generic setpieces as shootouts, standoffs, chases, and heists.... The acting in Madigan brings to life a dimension of meaning, conflict, and crisis that is implied, but not stated, in Polonsky's script, demonstrating that the formal complexity of Siegel's films is no less bold and exciting in their dialogue scenes than in their action highpoints."

Conte d'automne The DVD release many are looking forward to most this year is Criterion's collection of Eric Rohmer's Six Moral Tales. As grateful as we'll be in August when it arrives, we'll still be awaiting a release of Conte d'automne (Autumn Tale). Until then, we have a fine piece from Jacob Leigh: "I do not want to overemphasize the parallels between Beaumarchais' Le Mariage de Figaro and Conte d'automne; there are many areas where the resemblance is superficial; nevertheless, the links that exist can help us to appreciate the achievement of Rohmer's film."

David Sterritt reminds us that "some aspects of [Terrence Malick's] personal and intellectual history... are atypical, to put it mildly, of the movie-directing crowd" and that "his intensely idiosyncratic pictures are philosophical to their bones, exploring an ambitious set of ideas in terms at once cinematically concrete and intellectually abstract. The New World is no exception."

"Lady Vengeance, the conclusion of a trio of films devoted to the subject of revenge, features less on-screen carnage than its two predecessors, Sympathy For Mr Vengeance and Oldboy, but has generated even more controversy." Steve Erickson looks into why that might be, and he's especially curious because, "In some respects, Sympathy for Mr Vengeance is so well done that it makes the remainder of Park [Chan-wook]'s trilogy pointless."

Miguel Marías on John Ford's 21-minute segment in How the West Was Won: "It breathes in a serene and beautiful way, unhurried but to the point, with an economy of trait and gesture that brings to mind Griffith and Chaplin, and now (we were not familiar with the Japanese master in 1962) seems curiously close to Ozu."

"I often have the feeling that we Argentineans tend to import theories and concepts rather than confront them," writes Lorena Cancela. "Is it everywhere like this? Are we condemned to be vampires in the shadows of the cinema?"

Posted by dwhudson at 3:49 PM

Karlovy Vary Dispatch. 3.

KVIFF 06 David D'Arcy looks back on more films he caught at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival: Sherrybaby, Frozen City, Goodbye Life, This Girl Is Mine, Transit and Blokada.

It's hard to have much faith in film festival juries. Based on the evidence that I have seen, festival jurors don't have a much better record than the jury in the OJ Simpson murder case. I say this as someone who has sat on many film festival juries.

At Karlovy Vary this year, at least two of the awards showed me to have been too much the skeptic. Perhaps it's because the competition was a great improvement over those of previous years. Sherrybaby, directed by Laurie Collyer, won the Crystal Globe, the festival's top prize. The Best Actress Prize went to Maggie Gyllenhaal, who played a heroin addict, just released from prison, who is trying to reconstruct her life with her daughter against all the odds that get most addicts locked up again. If the film weren't so affirmative about building one's life again, I'd call it a drop-dead performance.

It's also a nuanced performance. Gyllenhaal, who's blonde for this film, has the kind of hard ballsy exterior that we've come to expect from people who've done time (or from characters like this one) - with raw talk about sex, men and dope. But you can get that kind of talk from any rap track, from kids who've only done time at Versace. The vulnerability that Gyllenhaal brings to the role of a mother watching her children under the care of her sister-in-law, watching her family effectively take her child away, is what brings real emotions to Sherrybaby. Posturing can only go so far if a complicated family story is aiming at real and painful truths. (This one is based on the true story of someone whom the director knew. All the more reason to make it seem real.)  Here, acting took over, not just from Gyllenhaal but from the ensemble of actors in the cast - Danny Trejo as a goodhearted tattooed biker who tries to keep Sherry out of trouble, and Sam Bottoms as the father that she's trying and failing to please. We see in the briefest of pivotal scenes that he seems to have abused her as a child.

Sherrybaby

The production design of Sherrybaby is another triumph, because you're not aware of it. The New Jersey town to which Sherry returns is numbingly ordinary - not too rough, certainly not too elegant. You can say the same for her family's house. It's all woven into a story of the large and small battles of a person who could go either way - and you're never quite sure of that direction. Hence the drama.

The cinematography of Russell Lee Fine gives us a balance between character and circumstances. Gyllenhaal in close-ups can shift in an instant from one impulse to another, as a person does when she lives in the realm of fearful necessity. You get that same urgency in the love scenes, if that term can be used to describe those raw sequences. The camera helps us witness the maturing (and I don't mean aging) of a very fine actress.

Frozen City The text below has been slightly amended; see comments below.

Another film defined by superb acting is Aku Louhimies's Frozen City, a Finnish film about a father fighting to be with his children, screening in the Karlovy Vary competition. Veli-Matti is a taxi driver whose wife turns every effort to see his three kids into a battle. Any battle in cold dark Finland is likely to be more painful than it might be in a place like Italy. Little things go wrong, eating away at him, either at his miserable job or in his spartan apartment, where a neighbor complains that his curtains aren't right. Generations raised on Scorsese know that a taxi driver is supposed to explode eventually, and Veli-Matti does, after he's the victim of an act of unspeakable and trivial cruelty, and we are reminded that emotional hell always has new depths. Janne Virtanen gives every bit as courageous a performance as Gyllenhaal does in Sherrybaby.

If you watch Finnish films, you inevitably think of Aki Kaurismäki. Yet emotions with Kaurismäki tend to be played with a surface deadpan. Characters walk robotically through circumstances that they often can't control. In Frozen City, you watch as a character thrashes against the cards that he's been dealt, and wonder whether determination has any chance against what seems to be destiny. Let's hope some distributors were watching this one.

Goodbye Life The fight over children seemed to be a theme this year. It was part of the picaresque Goodbye Life, Ensieh Shah-Hosseini's odyssey set in the Iran-Iraq War, seen through the autobiographical eyes of a woman journalist covering that carnage in the marshlands of the river delta that those countries share in the South. Families reassembling after attacks and bombings, searching for lost children, are part of what she witnesses. At its best moments, that journey through the eyes of a survivor walking among corpses in the deserts and the marshes is hypnotic. There's a great look to the mute landscapes, but the script doesn't go much farther. (A number of Iranian films have been made on the subject, and I'm told that most are nationalistic melodramas, although I have never seen one. We could also use any kind of film examining the US role in that war, which took more than a million lives. The US supported Saddam back then, remember?)

This Girl Is Mine Kids and custody were also at the core of This Girl Is Mine, by Virginie Wagon, in which an ex-addict mother living in the woods somewhere outside Marseilles suddenly finds herself under siege from a businesswoman who claims that she is the real mother of her 11-year old child, who was allegedly kidnapped at the age of six months.   The mother living with the child is Spanish and toils as a substitute teacher and part-time farm-worker. The would-be mother is rich, divorced, and drunk most of the time, no doubt the casualty of a ten-year struggle to find the child that was taken from her. She is easy to dislike. Amid debates over who is (or could be) the better mother, and sub-plots about the techno-search by private investigators for those complicit in the kidnapping, what this story really needs is a Solomon, and it gets one. The wisdom here, affirmed once again, is that you can't cut a child in half, often in spite of evidence that, abiding by the most literal reading of the law, could wrest a child from the only family that she has known. A small, gripping drama leads you toward that conclusion.

Transit Transit, by Alexandr Rogozhkin, aims at a much bigger drama, an epic set at the extreme eastern end of Siberia in 1942 and 1943 - and presumably a budget to match its ambitions. Through this isolated base pass American men and women pilots from Alaska, young Russian soldiers, local communist party hacks, and the native people whose land gets trampled in the world war. The cinematographer who shot Transit must have watched Pearl Harbor a few too many times, and, to put it mildly, neither the script nor the acting fills up all that space. An epic deserves better. Go back to Rogozhkin's Living With an Idiot to see how good this director can be.

Blokada A better Russian choice at Karlovy Vary, from the documentary section,  was Blokada, a collection of footage of the 900-day World War II Nazi siege of Leningrad, seen from the Russian point of view. The documentary, shot back then in crystalline 35-mm and assembled into less than one hour by Sergei Loznitsa, has no dialogue, and no sound except sirens, children screaming, and the marching of boots. We see soldiers marching through the street with prisoners (some of whom are hanged at the end), buildings are bombed into splinters, and citizens desperate for water are scooping up melted snow to drink.

Things were far worse than these images of dignity might have you think, but the silent footage has a quiet power. My friends who grew up in the Soviet sphere say they were force-fed similar images in school every day, and don't need more. For the rest of the film audience, whose historical memory seems to be the length of a single frame, Blokada will be absolutely new, and should be seen.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:23 PM | Comments (4)

Karlovy Vary. Awards.

Sherrybaby The Alternative Film Guide's got the list of this year's award-winners at Karlovy Vary. As André Soares notes on his accompanying blog, though Laurie Collyer's Sherrybaby won "Best Film" and its lead, Maggie Gyllenhaal, won "Best Actress," on the whole, Central Europe fared well, too.

Same goes for the Brussels European Film Festival. Soares: "Two Hungarian films, Agnes Kocsis's Friss levegö (Fresh Air) and György Pálfi's Taxidermia have tied for the 10,000-euro Iris Award for Best European Film."

More: "Slovakia's 14th ArtFilm Festival Award Winners."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:17 AM

July 8, 2006

Bright Lights: The Blog.

Bright Lights The team behind one of the very best film publications around, online or off, Bright Lights Film Journal, has launched a blog, and they're calling it, appropriately enough, Bright Lights Film Journal.

There, you'll find all your old favorites stepping out and posting entries just like the rest of us - for example, Robert Keser on Iron Island, C Jerry Kutner on Rossellini, Alan Vanneman on Superman Returns and Megan Ratner on Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:23 AM | Comments (2)

Karlovy Vary Dispatch. 2.

KVIFF 06 From the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, David D'Arcy sends word on new films from Central and Eastern Europe: Taming Crocodiles, Beauty in Trouble, Skrítek, Taxidermia and 12:08 East of Bucharest.

Karlovy Vary has always been viewed as one-stop shopping for the cinematic traveler who seeks his annual dose of films from Central and Eastern Europe. I'm wary of any one-stop shopping since it lets you be convinced that this is all you need to do. That said, Karlovy Vary is still an essential event, among others, for cinema in that part of the world. For Czech films, it's even more important.

Taming Crocodiles As always, what KV had to offer was mixed. Let's start with the least encouraging trend in Czech film - the utter commercialism of movies that were made with one aim in mind, making money. I'll name only one of those films, Taming Crocodiles, by Marie Polednáková, which was a melding of two television sitcoms on TV Nova, the commercial Czech channel (owned by American investors, among them the cosmetics Croesus, Ronald S Lauder) that has pushed back the walls of ignorance with mindless game shows and weather-babes. Hammy acting and a predictable script about inane divorced parents and wisecracking school-kids put this film in a class by itself at this kind of festival. One reassuring note, though. As with a lot of local comedy, the humor won't reach beyond the border of the Czech Republic, so it won't travel much farther than Slovakia. I'm told it was successful at the box office, a real hit, which confirms every presumption you might have had about the dangers of playing to public taste.

I'm sure there was criticism that this film was an unabashedly commercial phenomenon and had no place in a film festival. I disagree. If Taming Crocodiles is part of this year's crop of Czech films, then show it. Let the world know what Czechs who don't go to film festivals are seeing.

Beauty in Trouble Another film that came with higher expectations, this time to the competition at the KVIFF, was Beauty in Trouble, by Jan Hrebejk, a story of love and emotional survival in the messy realities of current Czech society. Marcela and her two children live above a huge garage where her husband makes his living taking apart stolen cars. (Bear in mind that car theft is an everyday reality that concerns everyone in the Czech Republic. Car owners could be an instant constituency for this film.) Marcela and her bearish husband fight constantly, mostly over the money that they don't have for the most basic needs, but they have volcanic sex.

The movie takes an important turn when the mechanic and his boys make a fatal mistake and steal the car of a wealthy visitor, a Czech émigré who now owns a vineyard in Tuscany, on a visit to Prague to sell the villa that had been the property of his family. (Another note - the return of émigrés to recover property that had been taken from them by Nazis or Communists has been an acutely sore point in the Czech Republic. Whatever the merits of their claims, these returnees are resented, not so much because they open up historical sores, but because people living on property that was seized years before tend to see that property as their own. It happens in the US with paintings in the possession of prominent collectors that the Nazis seized from Jews in World War II. Why shouldn't it happen with Czech real estate? Not surprisingly, with greed being a strong motivation and possession being a high percentage of the law, there have been cases in which insiders who sit on this disputed property try to keep the outsiders who return from recovering too much.)

That's a subplot of the film, complete with lawyers who are poised to cheat aggrieved émigrés, but the central story develops around recognition that the émigré from Italy is a genuinely decent man, who also happens to be rich and generous. When Marcela is forced to leave the garage after her husband is arrested and imprisoned for his role in the chop-shop gang, she moves in with relatives who conform to the central-casting rules about angry elders with harsh exteriors, hearts of gold, and a whole array of comic idiosyncratic ticks. When the émigré invites Marcela to move into his villa - filled with some of its own characters - the romance that we expected to warm up catches fire.

As Beauty in Trouble becomes a love story focused on a choice between a coarse virile criminal and a courtly wealthy gentleman, there's a parallel observation that the film seems to be making about Czech society - chaotic, unformed, earthy, explosive, but uncivilized until it is educated from the outside. Imagine this all wrapped up in a sweetly sentimental package that seems designed to put a heartwarming trailer together. What choice will Marcela make? If you're at one of the festivals where this film is likely to play, you'll find out.

Skritek More to my taste was Skrítek (Dwarves), in which the director Tomás Vorel takes the earthiness of Czech self-portrayal to new heights (or depths). Once again we see an overworked uneducated family, this time in a small city, in which the father carves carcasses in a slaughterhouse and the mother stands robotically at a cash register, scanning purchases in a vast supermarket where the meat that her husband slices up is sold for consumption. If raw meat and the all the fluids that come with it are not earthy, what is? Skrítek has no dialogue, just noises which tend toward anything gross, and not much of a plot, although the father of the family (who could be the Czech equivalent of his counterpart on Married with Children) is having an affair with a blonde buxom meat-cutter from work. Add to the mix an eponymous creature picked from a Czech fairy tale, a kind of water sprite covered with fur who wears a funnel on his head, who observes all this human foolishness.

There's no reverence here. No characters are spared in Skrítek, neither children nor parents, nor the mass of citizens who are drinking or fornicating when they're not cutting cows apart. Nor does the director spare his viewers all the tactile disgust of watching animals being cut up - the same animals that we'll be eating the next day. Think of Skrítek as a slaughterhouse in which a whole society is skewered. Tomás Vorel is quite a butcher, even offering up his own son, who plays the skateboarding teenager in our typical Czech family. His substituting of noises for dialogue is a technique that we associate with short films (although a Hungarian film in which all the dialogue was hiccups showed that the feature form could be sustained this way). Like any quasi-silent movie, it forces him to tell his story in images.

Taxidermia Sticking with the theme of grossness (also present in the festival's international competition), Taxidermia, by György Pálfi of Hungary seems to have won the "can-you-top-this" award. Think of it as three gross tales about a grandfather, his son, and his grandson - a persecuted army orderly (Woyzek in the pigpen) cares for officers and pigs, and fantasizes about women, always getting the two mixed up, even in bed; marathon eating becomes a competitive sport, with champions formed to the task of gobbling up and vomiting out huge tubs of food in front of audiences; the taxidermist son of a gargantuan veteran marathon eater (grandson of the sad sack orderly) stuffs his father after the hulking mass of flesh, to heavy to walk, is killed by his giant house cats who are caught red-mouthed while eating his intestines. Sound appetizing?

It would be too simple to call grossness the last (or the next) frontier, although some critics out there will, but Taxidermia seems to be intent on crossing whatever boundaries of taste that there might be. The film has gotten a huge amount of praise since it premiered at Cannes, and much of it is deserved. György Pálfi succeeded in taking us into a different world - a mess, if you will, of his own making. As happens a lot when a director presents such a confection, however disgusting it might be, there's an odd refinement to the confection, an aesthetic that's finely wrought, the hypnotics of mud. Yet Palfi's real goal seems to be humor. You come out of the film laughing, not analyzing the verisimilitude of the pig shit or the endless rolls in the glutton's stomach. There's a lot of promise here, much as there was in Delicatessen many years ago - in the same way, Taxidermia, if it's marketed right, could conquer the same markets of kids who will go to see it again and again once they're hooked.

12:08 East of Bucharest From the Rumanian director Corneliu Porumbolu, 12:08 East of Bucharest is in another category of grotesquery: hypocrisy. It is sixteen years after the 1989 downfall of the Ceausescu government, and the owner of a local television station has invited two bumbling men who say they participated in the uprising to reminisce about those events on a call-in program. The amateurish show that was planned as a celebration sheds a little too much truth, all of it uncomfortable. It's bad enough that the two guests are shown by the callers who know them to have been drinking while more courageous citizens were demonstrating. A former Sicuritate (secret police) agent, exposed on the show, calls in to say that he was a mere accountant in the vicious agency, and then threatens the two guests, who are too inept to defend themselves against the self-serving accuser. Some things never change.

Rumania has become the standard for the formerly-communist country in which everyone claims to have been a rebel, when the truth reveals something quite different. (Remember Robert Dornhelm's excellent film on this subject, Requiem for Dominic, set in Timisoara, which accused the country's "reformers" of lying about their communist past when the bodies of Nikolai Ceausescu and his Marie-Antoinette wife were still warm?) Yet hypocrisy crosses borders in the old Warsaw Pact with little trouble. So did the wry humor of Porumbolu's film, which had the Czech audience at the screening I attended roaring with laughter. They knew that they could just as easily be looking at their own country, or any other country nearby. Porumbolu reminds us that even the lowest level of television can be an instrument to tell us something, when you approach it with the proper contempt. Like György Pálfi, he is a director to watch.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:19 AM

Weekend shorts.

Pretend We're Dead At Quick Stop Entertainment, DK Holm notes that, after a severe drought, this is a damn fine time for film books and then reviews Annalee Newitz's Pretend We're Dead: Capitalist Monsters in American Pop Culture, "a terrific survey of 'monster' movies of the last 20 or so years and pop culture well before that, and focusing on cannibals, robots, and serial killers."

How did The Searchers get canonized, wonders Stephen Metcalf in Slate: "It is preposterous in its plotting, spasmodic in its pacing, unfunny in its hijinks, bipolar in its politics, alternately sodden and convulsive in its acting, not to mention boring.... Though visually magnificent, the movie is otherwise off-putting to the contemporary sensibility, what with its when men were men, and women were hysterics mythos and an acting style that often appears frozen in tintype." Jim Emerson responds, arguing that Metcalf isn't actually all that concerned about the film itself: "Using The Searchers as an anecdotal, ideological bludgeon, Metcalf attempts to attack the impudent and insidious notion that movies are worthy of serious study and artistic interpretation."

Two meaty entries from Girish to chew on: "Taxonomies" and "Signpost Films."

Michael Atkinson: "Don't call it nostalgia - what's beguiling and hilarious and dazzling today about unpretentious star vehicles like China Seas (1935) are exactly the same lovely resources that suckered audiences in the 30s: personality amperage, fun-loving sexuality, pulp honesty, and the brazen let's-play-pretend energy of Clark Gable and Jean Harlow." Also in the Voice, Dennis Lim on Urbanscapes.

San Diego Reader: Screens In the San Diego Reader, Jay Allen Sanford takes a nostalgic tour of the area's drive-ins, most of them now long gone.

"Somehow, Tennessee Williams and the movies have never made a comfortable fit," writes Geoffrey Macnab in the Independent. "On screen, the intensity was invariably lost. Worse, in the name of decency, Williams' work was all too frequently bowdlerised."

Macnab makes an appearance in the Guardian as well: "Talking to [Paul] Schrader about the origins of Taxi Driver is a disarming experience. On the one hand, he waxes nostalgic about a movie he is still clearly immensely proud of. On the other, he is forcing himself to rake over one of the most troubled moments in his own life."

Also in the Guardian:

Kilink in Istanbul At Cinema Strikes Back, David Austin talks with Bill Barounis, whose Onar Films has been releasing Turkish films from a "golden age" which "seems to start in 1967 and end in the late 70s.... Turkish cinema was unrepeatable and unparalleled. No country whatsoever produced such films."

Bradford Nordeen: "Sebastien Lifshitz's Wild Side is one of the most moving and impeccably constructed films I can recall seeing in a non-revival theater in ages."

Peter Gelderblom on Takashi Miike's The Great Yokai War: "You won't hear me declare it a masterpiece. To tell the truth, I don't know what the hell it is.... Think Miyazaki, but live-action, with a slightly fetishistic sensibility."

Bryant Frazer: "Takeshis', Takeshi Kitano's crazy, weird, indulgent, breathtaking, strangely titled fantasy, is as entertaining as it is puzzling - a marvelous movie about movies with a sense of humor and a surreal streak."

The Second Circle At Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Ian Johnston reviews "one of Sokurov's best," The Second Circle.

Peter Debruge at Collider on Kino's package of early films by Michael Haneke: "Few filmmakers have generated as conceptually unified an oeuvre as Haneke, and this is, hands down, the most significant DVD release of the year.... Haneke's early films resonate with contemporary concerns and reinforce his standing as one of the most audacious filmmakers working today."

Though he doesn't frame the piece quite this way, Kenji Fujishima does show that directors of the current crop of summertime blockbuster wannabes could learn a thing or two about the action genre from Die Hard. Also at the House Next Door, NP Thompson has a long talk with Stewart Stern, which he introduces with a brief appreciation of Rachel, Rachel.

Jay Seaver at Hollywood Bitchslap: "The Descent doesn't mess around on its way to being the best action-horror movie to come down the pipe in a while."

Robert Ito: "Die-hard fans of Asian film are quick to recoil at any remake, whether it's The Ring or Shall We Dance? or this summer's Lake House. But with Battle Royale the reaction has been particularly vehement."

Also in the New York Times:

Eat Drink Man Woman

Wim Wenders has been jetting back and forth between the US and Germany for some time, but now he's preparing to leave America for good, reports Stephanie Bunbury in the Age. "'This hostile takeover by the religious right has created an unpleasant climate,' he says." Via Movie City News.

Ray Pride has a terrific conversation with Richard E Grant at Movie City Indie. The occasion is Wah-Wah, of course, but it's only a starting point.

More interviews:

The Pikme-Up

Johnny Ray Huston on Who Killed the Electric Car?: "There's a low-key tenacity to [director Chris] Paine's approach that's closer to Alex Gibney's infomercial-subverting Enron movie than the agitprop crafted by the blustery-when-effective Michael Moore, or by Robert Greenwald - the kind of person who's easy to agree with, but the type of moviemaker who usually gives the talking head documentary a bad name." Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian: Michelle Devereaux on Strangers With Candy. More on that one from Ernest Hardy in the LA Weekly.

Ian Johns introduces readers of the London Times to the "Frat Pack," whose "core members, producing comedies that are less sophisticated than Woody Allen but less crude than American Pie, include [Ben] Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jack Black, Owen and Luke Wilson and Steve Carell. Hollywood loves them because, for a relatively low production cost, they are achieving huge returns." (Related: Rachel Abramowitz profiles Owen Wilson in the Los Angeles Times.) Also, Howard Feinstein talks with Steve Buscemi about directing Interview, a remake of Theo van Gogh's original.

Afro-Punk August Brown: "For the African American musicians who appear in Afro-Punk, their ethnic identity and their deep attraction to the aesthetics and idealism of punk rock often keep them from being fully accepted as a member of either group." Also in the LAT, Kevin Thomas finds Tahmineh Milani's Cease Fire "talky, too long at 1 hour, 44 minutes and [it] tends to be preachy and tedious." Also, Mark Olsen on Only Human.

Shawn Badgley talks with Ward Serrill about The Heart of the Game. Also in the Austin Chronicle, Anne S Lewis on Rebecca Dreyfus's Stolen and Steve Uhler on The Loved One.

Eric Kohn in the NYP on The Motel: "The compositions, usually unfolding in Jarmuschian long takes and viewed through wide angles, tend to look flat, and extended dialogue scenes grow tired. But... there's little doubt that [director Michael] Kang's style will grow."

Christopher Bray remembers the falling out between Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann in the New Statesman.

Via Jenni Olson, a list from Christie Keith: "Notice I'm not calling this the ten best lesbian/gay films. I have no idea what the ten best queer films of all time are. I probably haven't even seen them. These are my ten favorite gay movies, period."

2006. We're a little past the halfway mark, and Jason Whyte's got a top ten and bottom five "so far, anyway" at Hollywood Bitchslap.

"Satellite radio DJs and programmers offer perhaps the best example to artists and other creative types looking to take advantage of the new technologies of their respective media," writes Daniel Nemet-Nejat. "Filmmakers could take a page out of their book."

"The allure of the trailer is the realization that immense power need not come in a 90-minute package," writes Adriane Quinlan in the Washington Post. "Sure, it's advertising. But often, it's art."

Online listening tip. Karen Allen recalls Raiders of the Lost Ark on the Leonard Lopate Show.

Online viewing tip #1. The trailer for DOA: Dead or Alive, via Bilge Ebiri.

Online viewing tip #2. At the Culture Blog!, Mark Morford introduces Joss Whedon (introduced by Meryl Streep) accepting an award in honor of the strong roles he's written for women.

Online viewing tip #3. James Israel's found some vintage Dennis Hopper.

Online viewing tip #4. Noam Chomsky vs Michel Foucault. Via Fimoculous.

Godard: Vietnam Online viewing tip #5. Andy Rector points to Jean-Luc Godard talking (without subtitles) about the differences between Santiago Alvarez and Stanley Kubrick's depictions of the war in Vietnam.

Online viewing tips, round 1. Brasscheck TV: hours of leftish documentary viewing.

Online viewing tips, round 2. Erik Davis launches a new feature at Cinematical: "Eat My Shorts."

Online viewing tips, round 3. Alison Willmore rounds up some of the most interesting of the recently released trailers at the IFC Blog. Also, Thom Yorke.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:07 AM | Comments (5)

Weekend fests and events.

Outfest "In movie years great and mediocre, one thing remains true and fine about Outfest, the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, which turns 24 this week: It's an event that queer people make for themselves." Chuck Wilson introduces the LA Weekly's critics' picks. More from Kevin Thomas in the Los Angeles Times and Paul Birchall in the LA CityBeat.

In the Voice, Dennis Lim recommends Another Wave: Global Queer Cinema, Part One to New Yorkers. Through July 21. More from Steve Erickson at Gay City News: "The series is particularly strong on Asian films, including Tropical Malady, Stanley Kwan's Lan Yu and Malaysian director Amir Muhammad's excellent short Pangyau."

AS Hamrah in the Boston Phoenix: "Moviegoers seeking release from the increasingly unavoidable escapism of superhero movies will find much to enjoy in the 11th Boston French Film Festival, which runs at the Museum of Fine Arts through July 23." More from Justine Elias in the Boston Globe.

For goings on in the San Francisco Bay Area, do check in with Brian Darr, and then, Dennis Harvey at SF360: "It's difficult to think of a film more immediately dissed and subsequently beloved than Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, whose deluxe DVD release is getting celebrated with a revival screening and live cast reunion at Peaches Christ's Midnight Mass series this weekend."

"The annual film orgy that is Karlovy Vary is one of the oldest and most respected festivals in Europe. And after a period when the festival looked to be doomed, it has bounced back to become one of the main addresses for cineastes." Steffen Silvis offers an overview in the Prague Post. More from Boyd van Hoeij at Cineuropa on Volando voy (My Quick Way Out) and Winterreise (Winter Journey) and lots more at european-films.net.

Matthew Clayfield: "I have a feeling I'll be seeing a lot of labours of love and ways of life on the screen over the next two weeks, as I endeavour to give [the Melbourne Underground Film Festival, through July 16] the attention it deserves."

Jed Perl for the New Republic on On Photography: A Tribute to Susan Sontag: "Sontag got at a truth that many people did not really want to admit, which was that their ardor for photographs eluded - shattered - all the old aesthetic categories."

Scanners At indieWIRE, Brian Brooks previews Scanners: The New York Video Festival (July 26 through 30).

"Fans of avant-garde film have cause to rejoice this month, as a long-overdue Peter Whitehead retrospective arrives at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown," announces Josh Rosenblatt in the Austin Chronicle. Also, Toddy Burton reports on how Austinites fared at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Cinematical's Jette Kernion has more Austin area events.

The site for the NY Asian American International Film Festival (July 13 through 21 in Manhattan and August 3 through 6 on Long Island) is alive and kicking.

Michael Moore sends out an invitation to the Traverse City Film Festival (July 31 through August 6).

All the King's Men will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (September 7 through 16).

Online viewing tip. The trailer for the Raindance Film Festival (September 27 through October 8).

Posted by dwhudson at 6:17 AM

July 7, 2006

A Scanner Darkly.

Austin Chronicle: A Scanner Darkly Finally, the roundup entry on A Scanner Darkly marking its general release. Marc Savlov, who talks with Richard Linklater, finds it "so trippily in touch with the current cultural zeitgeist that it rattles you to your core." Also in the Austin Chronicle, Raoul Hernandez follows the adventures of Graham Reynolds and his unusual score and Savlov meets up with producer Tommy Pallotta and animators Jason Archer and Paul Beck.

Salon's Andrew O'Hehir proposes that the film "will have particular resonance for viewers of about [Linklater's] age and generational predilections. If Slacker and Dazed and Confused were major cultural events in your life (along with, say, Repo Man and Stranger Than Paradise and Blue Velvet and Sid and Nancy), then this movie is for you."

Andrea Gronvall, who has an excellent paragraph on Rory Cochrane's appearance both here and in Dazed and Confused in the Chicago Reader, writes further on, "As uncompromising and biting as it is, A Scanner Darkly resists indicting those who have too much time on their hands or those who've played too heartily. As Linklater wrote in a 1991 essay, opting out of conventional society for many is a deliberate choice that entails a lot of effort and ingenuity."

Updated through 7/12.

"[Philip K] Dick is one of those, like Kafka and the writers of Seinfeld, who have copyrighted certain aspects of reality; certain moments of the day, they own," writes James Parker in an overview of the writer's imprint in film, music video and elsewhere. Also in the Boston Phoenix, Peter Keough talks with Linklater and, as for the animation, "its fluid, whimsical vertigo doesn't mitigate the grimness, but helped out by a terrific cast it does enliven the whimsy, pathos, mind-boggling paradoxes, and melancholy ironies of Dick at his finest."

Robert Levine has a piece on the process of rotoscoping in the Los Angeles Times, where Carina Chocano writes, "The brilliance of A Scanner Darkly is how it suggests, without bombast or fanfare, the ways in which the real world has come to resemble the dark world of comic books."

In her review for the New York Times, Manohla Dargis concentrates more on the novel than the film; which may be because, as J Hoberman writes in the Voice, this is "the most literal of Dick adaptations and also, in a perverse way, the most literary."

Peter Hartlaub in the San Francisco Chronicle: "For science fiction fans who prefer ideas over laser battles, this is the most meticulous and faithful movie adaptation of Dick's work - and one of the most thoughtful."

Writing in the LA Weekly, Christopher Orr finds Linklater and Dick make for "a peculiar match," in part because "for most of the film, the portrayal of drug use is so... fun."

Cynthia Fuchs at PopMatters: "To the extent that Scanner adopts any conventional form, it establishes Bob [Arctor, one identity played by Keanu Reeves] as the most sympathetic, least overtly frantic of the addicts, by granting access to his worrying about his status - as an addict, a narc, a man losing his grip on any number of realities."

"[T]he best possible marriage of story and style," declares Cheryl Eddy in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Jürgen Fauth finds it "a handsome and mindwarping movie that has cult hit written all over it." MaryAnn Johanson warns that "it takes you to places you know and don't want to know at the same time."

"[T]he film's ideas - on homegrown dystopia, everyday alienation - could only seem inventive to cultural retards," scoffs Armond White in the New York Press. Still, the film "has retro chic going for it; director Richard Linklater may be the most trendily attuned yet vacuous filmmaker at work."

"[T]here used to be a place in the film industry for something like A Scanner Darkly, a film that tells a complex story in a visually startling manner without worrying about how such things will go over with mall audiences," writes Peter Sobczynski at Hollywood Bitchslap. More from Brian Orndorf.

More interviews: Mike Russell's got a terrific talk with Linklater and the AV Club's Keith Phipps meets Robert Downey Jr (he's got a review as well). Downey Jr will be writing his memoirs, by the way; the BBC reports.

The Reeler attended the New York opening.

Online listening tips. RU Sirius interviews Linklater, who's also appeared on the Leonard Lopate Show.

Updates, 7/9: Cinematical's Jette Kernion: "Thanks to this film and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, I now will watch Downey in just about anything." Welcome to the club, Jette! I've been keeping your seat warm for years. All in all: "It's the kind of movie that makes you want to go somewhere with your friends afterwards to discuss it, triggering hours of talk about society, politics, drugs, entertainment, and contemporary filmmaking. See it with a group and make sure the theater is near a good gathering place with late hours."

Among the Cinemarati, lylee: "A Scanner Darkly is a perfect example of a film in which form blends seamlessly with substance rather than merely enhancing it."

Updates, 7/12: Sean Burns in the Philadelphia Weekly: "Linklater's low-key humanism is a bad match for Dick's obsessive, clammy suspicion, and A Scanner Darkly meanders when it should be twisting the screws."

Rob Nelson, writing in the City Pages, disagrees: "What a breath of fresh air this stifling, claustrophobic, boldly uningratiating vision of an American subculture's last gasp imparts to its contrarian core audience. (Call me a hopeless addict: I've seen it three times.)"

Posted by dwhudson at 4:44 PM | Comments (3)

Vers le sud.

Vers le sud Stephen Holden finds Laurent Cantet's Heading South to be "one of the most truthful examinations ever filmed of desire, age and youth, and how easy it is to confuse erotic rapture with love."

Writing in the Voice, J Hoberman finds it an "intelligent movie, not so much salacious as affecting but ultimately less analytical than overwrought."

"Cantet makes his points about race, class, oppression and poverty with reasonable subtlety," writes the Telegraph's David Gritten. "Yet, once he has done so, the film runs out of steam."

More from Stephanie Zacharek in Salon, where Andrew O'Hehir talks with Charlotte Rampling, and from Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian, where it's Stuart Jeffries who interviews Rampling.

Jennifer Merin talks with Cantet for the New York Press.

Online listening tip. Rampling on the Leonard Lopate Show.

Update, 7/8: Sarah Silver opens the Reverse Shot round at indieWIRE.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:22 PM | Comments (3)

More Pirates.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest So today marks a switchover from previews of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest to reviews. You'll probably have fun, supposes AO Scott in the New York Times, "even if it's hard to shake the feeling that you've been bullied into it."

"There's nothing so tedious as nonstop excitement," writes Salon's Stephanie Zacharek, who calls the film a "mess," and worse, "sexless."

Updated through 7/10.

"Despite his heartthrob status in real life, Orlando Bloom has consistently functioned as a node of negative energy onscreen, sucking the life force out of all who surround him," notes Slate's Dana Stevens. The Telegraph's Sukhdev Sandhu: "[I]t falls to Bill Nighy to do what he does best these days: steal the film."

The cinetrix: "DMC shares a lot of the sins of the second Indy: needlessly gruesome effects for effects' sake, a bloated cast, and a humor deficit."

Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Epics don't come about through sheer willpower, by someone deciding to make an epic and then stuffing a weak story with a lot of junk. Do that and you don't get an epic, just cinematic water torture on the order of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

Film Threat's Pete Vonder Haar: "It's the Empire Strikes Back of the Pirates franchise, right down to the hanging ending and the unexpected romantic angle. I'll reserve judgment on the entire series until the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End next year, but for now, Dead Man's Chest is a step backwards."

Mary McNamara in the Los Angeles Times on that cliffhanger ending: "Not since the days of Tom Mix have audiences been left dangling in such an extreme way."

It's "even more of a party-hearty-Marty potlatch of silliness than its predecessor," writes Michael Atkinson in the Voice: "The ingredients for a movie-movie tropical vacation are all here, including the boozy highs, the chintz, the wandering waste of time, and the hangover."

Still, "pirate shit is damn near irresistible, especially when Depp's riding the mast," finds the San Francisco Bay Guardian's Cheryl Eddy. Jeffrey Overstreet agrees: "Bursting at the seams with adventure, chase-scenes, comedy, and monsters so fantastic that Peter Jackson's gonna turn green with envy, it's making this moviegoer shout a hearty yo-ho-hallelujah."

MaryAnn Johanson's won over as well.

Scott Foundas in the LA Weekly: "You'd have to think back to The Matrix Revolutions, or maybe even Back to the Future Part II, to come up with a Hollywood sequel less satisfying than this one."

For Cynthia Fuchs, writing for PopMatters, it's "more of the same, bigger, longer, more rambunctious and generally less fun than the first time you saw it."

"The first of two sequels," writes the AV Club's Scott Tobias, "bears the unenviable burden of racking the pins for both movies, which leaves it with precious few opportunities to have a little fun of its own."

The Washington Post's Desson Thomson: "This Disney movie isn't a follow-up to 2003's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl so much as its empty-calorie clone."

"[W]hen this sequel finally ends, it's not with a bang or whimper, but with a threat... of more," sighs Armond White in the New York Press.

More from Ray Pride at Movie City Indie, from Hollywood Bitchslappers Erik Childress, Brian Orndorf and Peter Sobczynski and from Cinematical's James Rocchi and Scott Weinberg.

Elaine Lipworth talks with Johnny Depp for the Independent.

It's pirate week at TLRHB.

Updates, 7/9: It's "boring business as usual" for the Observer's Mark Kermode. "Every five minutes a new quest is announced, sending us rattling off on another tack, each more fatuously inconsequential than the last."

"Depp lets us see his mental gears whirring (and very often clanking) before he takes action that in some way subverts everyone's expectations. You might say that he’s the anti-Errol Flynn," writes Time's Richard Schickel. Nonetheless, "as adventure yarn or as satire on that form or merely as an enjoyable entertainment featuring a wonderfully sly and subtle actor - it is not merely a loser. It is a disaster."

The AP's Greg Risling: "Preliminary estimates released by Disney show that Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest earned $55.5 million on Friday, which would set the record for the largest one-day take at the box office."

Updates, 7/10: "[T]he lack of a lean narrative line is an unexpected boon," offers David Edelstein in New York. The original "was half an hour too long (at least). This one is longer yet (two hours and 33 minutes for a pirate picture!) and has no ending (a third installment was shot simultaneously), but has so much going on that you forget about niceties like plot or suspense."

Online listening tip. The San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle revisits his own review.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:13 PM | Comments (1)

Interview. Larry Clark.

Larry Clark Thomas Logoreci's conversation with Larry Clark about Wassup Rockers (MySpace) is quick and to the point. First question: "Is this Larry Clark lite?"

Earlier: John Payne and Caroline Ryder's feature in the LA Weekly and more reviews.

Updates: Johnny Ray Huston also speaks with Clark for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. And the AV Club's Keith Phipps gets him to comment on whatever tunes pop up on his shuffling MP3 player.

Bay Area folk: See the comments below, then check the theater's site.

Update, 7/8: Bilge Ebiri talks with Clark for Nerve.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:33 AM | Comments (2)

July 6, 2006

Juan Pablo Rebella, 1974 - 2006.

Juan Pablo Rebella El País is reporting on the passing of Juan Pablo Rebella, the Uruguayan co-director, with Pablo Stoll, of 25 Watts and Whiskey.

There is now more in English: Specifically, from Gonzalo Maza right here in a comment to the entry below. More in the comments to this one as well.

This story is turning sadder, the more we learn.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:55 PM | Comments (10)

Interview. Michael Winterbottom.

Seems like only a few months ago, David D'Arcy was talking with Michael Winterbottom about his latest theatrical release to make it over to the States. Indeed, the month was March and the film was Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story.

The Road to Guantánamo

Now, as The Road to Guantánamo sneaks into a few more American theaters this week, David's met him again. Why hasn't this film, which has screened widely in Europe and was even broadcast on British television, caught fire in the US? Salon's Andrew O'Hehir has a theory: "Between the people who won't go see it because it's treasonous, and the people who won't go because it's too damn depressing, I'm afraid the American public is pretty much covered."

Look, people. The camp's probably on its way to being shut down. That's something to celebrate, right? By going to see this movie. Because this will always be a chapter of American history that should not, cannot be forgotten.

Update, 7/7: At PopMatters, Cynthia Fuchs talks with Winterbottom as well.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:56 AM | Comments (9)

July 5, 2006

Shorts, 7/5.

The Pumpkin Eater "Harold Pinter regularly offers actors what will become the opportunities of a lifetime," writes David Hare in the Guardian: "to Meryl Streep, obviously, in The French Lieutenant's Woman; to Peter Finch and Anne Bancroft in one of the most overlooked of all British films, The Pumpkin Eater; and, unforgettably, to Dirk Bogarde, both in Accident and The Servant. Pinter offers the stuff actors want and with which they can do magic - surface vitality, of course, but also an undertow of narrative and implied feeling which deepens the simplest remark. In the spare, complicated screenwriting of Pinter, 'yes', 'no' and 'maybe' become words which do a hundred jobs."

"Fifteen years after its release, Slacker hasn't aged much," writes Brian Raftery in Salon. "[T]oday's Internet-addled, career-minded 20-somethings may be wigged out by idea of living without a steady paycheck, but the movie's characters' social and environmental concerns are as timely as ever." Raftery talks at length with Richard Linklater and a slew of cast and crew members.

The Night Porter "A need to devour, punish, humiliate, or surrender seems to be a primal part of human nature, and it's certainly a big part of sex," Charlotte Rampling tells Judith Thurman in the New Yorker.

Acquarello reviews Benoît Jacquot's docs, parts 1 and 2.

"What moves us to provide commentary, in-depth analysis, of some films (and not others)?" The question was sent to Zach Campbell, who outlines his approach to an answer illustrated by three quick reviews of An American Romance, Viva La Muerte and The Eight-Diagram Pole Fighter.

At indieWIRE, Jason Guerrasio checks in on five indies in production: Day Zero, Gracie, In the Footsteps of Orpheus, Running Funny and The Savages.

Felicia R Lee talks with filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris about Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela: A Son's Tribute to Unsung Heroes - as well as a few of its subjects: "'There has never been a film tracing the people who left South Africa,' Bethuel Setai, a 67-year-old 'disciple' who is a former director general of the Free State Province, said in an interview from Bloemfontein. 'So many people believe the struggle began in 1976 with Soweto. This shows this whole struggle has been a relay race.'" The film is part of a trilogy, the Reeler reminds us.

Also in the New York Times: Nathan Lee on Urbanscapes, Dave Kehr on Petulia, Cannibal Holocaust and The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection and Tim Weiner: "Dieter Froese, an artist whose work helped define New York's downtown scene in the 1970s, died on Friday at his home in Lower Manhattan. He was 68."

The Yacoubian Building Mohamed El-Assyouti in the Al-Ahram Weekly on the adaptation of the bestselling Egyptian novel, The Yacoubian Building: "The film seems at times to want it both ways - corruption is dead, long live corruption. For the new corrupt can at least boast of their tolerance and democratic values by allowing the release of such a film, while the public can vent their anger on fictional rather than real characters."

"The bond between the older woman and younger man in more recent pop culture is still constructed as largely sexual," writes Michelle Orange in Sirens, "but the peripheral lures and assortment of players are newly multi-dimensional."

Craig Phillips points to Joseph P Kahn's story in the Boston Globe on writer Reed Martin's law suit against Jim Jarmusch and the studios that co-financed Broken Flowers, based on his suspicion that they stole a screenplay he'd worked on for ten years. Craig: "While there's two sides to every story, and I also know that, as painful as they can be to a writer to acknowledge, coincidences do happen and there's not much they can do about them - this particular case does sound a little fishy."

Joe Bowman starts "a list of 100 Films that have aided the continuation of my film adoration. This post will cover 25 films that mattered to me in my formative years from birth until the end of middle-school."

Online viewing tip #1. Aurélien Poitrimoult's The Green Hornet, a short via The Crime in Your Coffee.

Online viewing tip #2. The trailer for Mad Monster Party at filmtagebuch, also pointing you to stills from El Topo.

Online viewing tip #3. At Ironic Sans, an elementary animation, "Uma Thurman's Severed Head," via Coudal Partners.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:52 AM

Fests and events, 7/5.

The Seven-Year Itch At the House Next Door, Odienator celebrates "movies about adulterers, perverts, lawyers, criminals, liars, wimps, snitches, drunks, and any combination from that list," which is to say, the "Essential Wilder" series at Film Forum running through July 20. "Also present are numerous shots of the old New York, so many that Wilder should be mentioned in the same group of NYC directors as Lumet, Scorsese and Lee."

Hollywood Bitchslap's Erik Childress proposes "10 Ways To Reinvent The CineVegas Film Festival."

European-films.net is all over Karlovy Vary.

Michael Guillen follows up on his coverage of Frameline 30 with a piece on two docs, Meth and Rock Bottom: Gay Men and Meth and Emily Hoyer's take on Wrestling With Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner.

Eugene Hernandez and Brian Brooks wrap the Los Angeles Film Festival at indieWIRE; AJ Schnack looks ahead to Outfest, opening tomorrow in LA and running through July 17.

Jeremy Knox previews the Fantasia Film Festival (tomorrow through July 24) for Film Threat.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:18 AM

Karlovy Vary Dispatch. 1.

Two film from Korea are the focus of David D'Arcy's first dispatch from Karlovy Vary. The fest runs through Saturday.

Time, by the Korean director Kim Ki-duk was the opening night film of this summer's Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. It's a film about, among other things, plastic surgery. Who's to say that this isn't a subject whose time has come, for better or worse? (Let's bear in mind that the medium we're talking about involves putting images on celluloid and reshaping those images by cutting that plastic with a sharp blade. Let's also bear in mind that plastic surgery - the medical kind, that is - is one of the few growth industries in Los Angeles).

Time

In Time, the twist is in the director's premise. It's not about the risks of vanity, which Stendhal called le désir de paraître back when dueling scars were in fashion, long before anyone thought of plastic surgery for cosmetic purposes. The real peril of plastic surgery here isn't that it could go wrong and turn a patient into a monster after the patient has invested her money and her future. Nor is it that plastic surgery can go right, and enable those uneasy about their appearance to indulge in newer depths of vanity. Plastic surgery in Time is an instrument that characters can deploy in the service of an obsessional anxiety in a relationship. Not that vanity has disappeared - perhaps it's just too obvious for this director.

It sounds like a subject for a sci-fi look at the near future, in which one activity has shaped the rest of life. Yet Kim Ki-duk's approach is straight-ahead realism.

Here's the story. Seh-hee and Ji-woo have been a couple for two years. Seh-Hee falls into violently jealous rages whenever another woman approaches her man. Yet her real obsession is with the notion that he might become tired of her - not because she is aging, but because her face will become too familiar. The answer, she figures, is a new face. And that's just what she gets from a plastic surgeon whose office has "before and after" pictures of a patient on twin doors at the entrance. (At a press conference the day after the film screened, Kim Ki-duk implied that Koreans use plastic surgery almost as frequently as they use make-up. The press kit for the film notes that some 50 percent of young Koreans around the age of 20 would like to have plastic surgery.)

Seh-hee has her surgery, but not before the surgeon goes to great lengths to discourage her, with videotapes of long complicated operations performed on women in all their bloody grotesquery. It's the kind of footage which, if it were shot in a slaughterhouse, would make you give up meat for a long time. She disappears after the work is done, and the lonely Ji-woo fights off a string of would-be lovers, until he falls in love with a waitress at the local coffee bar, See-hee, who has the same jealous fits as his previous girlfriend. In case you haven't guessed, the two women are the same person, although a different actress plays the new face. Naturally, the surgically-altered girlfriend, who's also the new girlfriend, uses her new romance as an opportunity to test the love that Ji-woo still professes for his old girlfriend. He says he's still in love with the departed Girl #1.

As the plot gets even deeper into obsessional illusions, Ji-woo decides to go under the knife himself. Is it a new first for gender equality? We never know whether he actually returns, although See-hee does sleep with a man who she thinks is Ji-woo, only to learn that the man is pretending.

Sounds complicated? That's the point, as Kim Ki-duk adds plastic surgery to the menu of consumers' choices now on offer to young urban Koreans, already struggling to regain sense of themselves. What do you give to the woman who has everything? An entirely new face.

Making a film almost every year, Kim Ki-duk has the rare opportunity, like a documentary filmmaker, to take on trendy topics, as he has in Time. (There's no lyricism here, quite deliberately, but also no sense of cutting corners in haste.) "In this case, a shock is necessary," he told the press in Karlovy Vary in response to questions about whether he included surgery footage to warn his audience against imitating what they saw on the screen. The director said that the surgery footage that looks like animal dissection comprises about five percent of the film. Had he included more, he added, he might not get an audience for his fable. (Let's see how easy it is for him to get this distributed. So far the film hasn't shown in Korea. The KV screening was its world premiere.)

He still might be losing some of that audience, and not because he's treading on Korea's new beauty vogue. In Karlovy Vary, the director made a special point to note that quotas for the amount of time that theaters in Korea devote to Korean films have been cut in half, opening cinemas up to even more American product, and he predicted that the effect of this change could be that he and his peers would be making fewer films. Now that's a problem that even plastic surgery can't solve.

Love Talk Those new regulations have nothing to do with Love Talk, the Korean film shot in the US that is presented in this year's competition. (The Karlovy Vary competition is one of the best in years.) Shot almost entirely in Los Angeles, this film by Lee Yoon-ki finds disconnections among its characters, Koreans living in LA. Those disconnections are not just the mal du pays between the Koreans and the Americans in the land that the immigrants and their children have adopted. The other disconnections are among uprooted Koreans themselves, often sons and daughters of parents whose work ethic has demanded a sacrifice of real emotional presence.

No surprise that young Koreans phone the radio talk show hosted by Young-shin to air the frustrations that they can't talk to anyone else about. Family ties have broken down. Money doesn't fill the void, and love is hard to find. The various characters who work in video stores and massage parlors are filmed by cameraman Choi Jin-woong in silent meditative close-ups that call to mind the films of Japan in the 1950s and 1960s, which found discomfort in the abrupt disjunctions of modern society, despite the prosperity. Isolated car-captives driving around Los Angeles from empty job to empty apartment while they listen to the radio don't have to be Korean to be anxious, although the contrast with the strong family ties of the old country does make America look particularly bleak. As the tensions rise, so does the alcohol consumption, and things boil over into violence. While the debate over immigration intensifies, be prepared for other immigrant dramas that point to the sacrifices of living in America, the land of opportunity.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:21 AM

July 4, 2006

Interview. John Lydon.

John Lydon Is there a better way to celebrate Independence Day than to listen in on a conversation between David D'Arcy and the Ur-British punker, John Lydon (a/k/a Johnny Rotten) - who's chosen to live in LA rather than London and yet has a hand in the exhibition, AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion (at the Metropolitan in New York open though September 4)? Well, maybe. But this is the way we prefer going about it. Oh, say can you see God save the Queen?

Below the jump: a clip from Greil Marcus's prologue to his 1989 landmark, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century.

Johnny Rotten's first moments in "Anarchy in the UK" - a rolling earthquake of a laugh, a buried shout, then hoary words somehow stripped of all claptrap and set down the city streets -

I AM AN ANTICHRIST

- remain as powerful as anything I know. Listening to the record today - listening to the way Johnny Rotten tears at his lines, and then hurls the pieces at the world; recalling the all-consuming smile as he sang - my back stiffens; I pull away even as my scalp begins to sweat...

It is just a pop song, a would-be, has-been hit record, a cheap commodity, and Johnny Rotten is nobody, an anonymous delinquent whose greatest achievement, before that day in 1975 when he was spotted in Malcolm McLaren's Sex boutique on King's Road in London, had been to occasionally irritate those he passed on the street. It is a joke - and yet the voice that carries it remains something new in rock 'n' roll, which is to say something new in postwar popular culture: a voice that denied all social facts, and in that denial affirmed that everything was possible.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:05 PM | Comments (1)

July 3, 2006

Shorts, 7/3.

Cabiria First, as all of us who've read and watched his movie reviews over the years wish Roger Ebert a speedy recovery, let's note that the latest addition to his "Great Movies" collection is the indeed great Cabiria.

Also, Belle de Jour: "Buñuel, who was 67 when the film was released, had spent a lifetime making sly films about the secret terrain of human nature, and he knew one thing most directors never discover: For a woman like Severine, walking into a room to have sex, the erotic charge comes not from who is waiting in the room, but from the fact that she is walking into it. Sex is about herself. Love of course is another matter."

If you're kicking back tomorrow (and spending the rest of the week catching up), and you only have time to keep up with one train of thought, make it Jim Emerson's "Opening Shots Project." Excellent submissions are coming in from all over, and JE's adding frame grabs and a few comments to each.

Rebecca In a piece for the Guardian too rich and complex to pull a quote from (except perhaps for the first sentence: "Women's erotic fantasy is so subversive, so deeply shocking that it can only be written in code"), Germaine Greer lists the ways she feels Alfred Hitchcock's adaptation could never measure up to Daphne Du Maurier's novel, Rebecca. Related: Anna Massey recalls playing Mrs Danvers in a four-part adaptation of the novel for television: "I played her rather like a lesbian in a French film, in a slinky black silk dress. Essentially, I played what I imagined Du Maurier had subconsciously written, though it also seemed an interesting new angle on the part."

The occasion here is that Rebecca "is now being revived in a glistening new print by the British Film Institute," notes Peter Bradshaw: "The sheer, swooning pleasure that this film affords - its melodrama, its romance, its extravagant menace - makes it a must-see."

Also:

  • "What now seems most striking about British faux erotica from the 1970s is the way in which misery and angst threaten constantly to displace the erotic," writes Matthew Sweet, arguing that these films "are as eloquent about British sensibility as any work of their period."

  • "The qualities for which he is celebrated by today's postmodern cultural magpies are the very ones that cost him half his career." Steve Rose meets Seijun Suzuki. Meanwhile, Peter Bradshaw reviews Princess Raccoon; so does Mark Kermode in the Observer. More thoughts, linkage and a photo from Richard Gibson.

  • Setting off a mile-long string of commentsm John Lloyd tears into The Wind That Shakes the Barley: "The imperative that steers many on the left towards a cartoon version of history - in which the white hats, through suffering, ultimately win against the black hats - produced TWTSTB. It does violence to history, of course: but it does more violence to the present, against which it is both implicitly and explicitly ranged."

  • Once again, television is saving the Western, notes John Patterson. Also, a loose riff on what "may be the overthrow of the conventional hierarchies of filmmaking and the increased participation of amateurs unbound by professional expectations and ingrained habit."

  • An extract from Tom McCarthy's Tintin and the Secret of Literature.

Caveh Zahedi has announced he'll be making a film about his father's second cousin's father. If that doesn't scratch your match, go look and see who his father's second cousin's father was.

"It's time we made a little space to celebrate the courageous aims and artistic achievement of Yield to the Night, which features a rare depiction of an "angry young woman" at a time when the Angry Young Man was the height of fashion," argues Melanie Williams in the Independent on the occasion of the forgotten film's 50th anniversary. "At the very least, can someone bring it out on DVD?"

Infamous Also, David Thomson "thought Capote was a good picture. But Infamous is better." Looker comments. And: a damn well-deserved appreciation of Charlotte Rampling at 60. Plus, Gill Pringle's interview with Bruce Willis and Rupert Cornwell on Wordplay.

"For a kid from East Texas who once put in 12-hour shifts wearing a hard hat and steel-toed boots on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, the memory of being nattily attired in a tux and walking up the paparazzi-lined red carpet in Cannes seems a bit jarring." Robert W Welkos meets and profiles Richard Linklater. Mike Russell's got a terrific talk with him, too.

Meanwhile, at Slant, Jeremiah Kipp reviews A Scanner Darkly: "Linklater, to his credit, has a skill for taking stories that thinly drift along on a vibe and make it vaguely, loosely compelling."

Also:

Renaissance

Back to the LAT: "Not that long ago, it was nearly impossible for filmmakers, producers and actors to move from adult cinema into 'legitimate' Hollywood." John Horn notes that Quinceañera proves it can be done.

Hollywood Bitchslap's Peter Sobczynski has a long talk with Larry Clark about Wassup Rockers. So, too, does Michael Guillen at the Evening Class. Yet more from Glan Helfand at SF360.

"Warner Brothers vs Disney" is a terrific entry from Wagstaff at the House Next Door analyzing a toddler's reaction to hours and hours of classic animated shorts from each studio.

In the New York Times:

  • In Stephen Farber's piece on the overlooked demographic, he talks with Susan Seidelman, whose Boynton Beach Club will be coming out on August 4 - though she had to shop it around for a while: "'They all said to me, "It's a nice movie, but we don't believe there's enough commercial potential in that demographic," Ms Seidelman recalled. 'That didn't compute for me. I'm over 50, and I go to the movies at least once a week. My mother is over 70, and she goes twice a week. My 16-year-old son barely goes at all. He's online all the time."

Edith Piaf
  • Kristin Hohenadel visits the makers behind La Vie en Rose, an Édith Piaf biopic: "It's hard not to see this exercise in nostalgia as evidence of France's current, self-professed identity crisis as a nation torn between its defining past and the vagaries of its future, unsure of its place in the world."

  • David M Halbfinger meets the men whose story is told in World Trade Center; and Oliver Stone tells him, "The mantra is 'This is not a political film.'"

  • Caryn James: "Click is the kind of film that relies on an unspoken compact between the movie and its audience... We all pretend, with a giant wink, to embrace an inspirational message we think we ought to accept, while actually reveling in the satisfying fantasy of the very thing that's supposed to be bad." Adds Michael Atkinson in the Voice: "[E]ven The Waterboy evolves, shockingly quickly, into inspirational snifflers à la Hoosiers... Click holds with the template in every detail, but in doing so attains a kind of terrifying grandeur." More from Armond White in the New York Press and more to really chew on from Chuck Tryon, who explains why the film is "the Rosebud Syndrome writ large" and why he finds it "surprisingly compelling."

  • AO Scott on The Great Yokai War: Takashi Miike "is possessed of an infectious, if sometimes baffling, enthusiasm for everything movies can do. He also keeps alive the possibility that they haven't done everything yet." More from Michael Atkinson in the Voice.

  • Laura Kern: "Krrish is overlong, schmaltzy, wholly derivative and sprinkled with underwhelming song-and-dance numbers. Coming from anywhere else, these elements might be considered glaring flaws. In Bollywood they are not only expected, but often, as in this film, they also appear as virtues." Meantime, for Reuters, Krittivas Mukherjee reports that "Bollywood's first superhero has brought super profits to India's prolific film industry."

  • Stephen Holden: "Rank is as thorough an examination of [bull-riding] as you could hope to squeeze into 90 taut, well-organized minutes." More from Mark Holcomb in the Voice.

  • Nathan Lee on Room: "A small-scale indie with bountiful ambitions, this resourceful debut ballasts a great deal of conceptual idiosyncrasy (simmering experimental flourishes erupt in a full-blown psychedelic set piece) with strict observations of personality, behavior and the textures of space." More from Ed Halter in the Voice. Related: indieWIRE's interview with director Kyle Henry.

  • Sharon Waxman's got numbers: "Through the first 25 weeks of the year, domestic box-office revenue — helped by a boost in ticket prices — was up nearly 5 percent, to $4.6 billion, though it still trailed 2004, according to the tracking company Exhibitor Relations. Movie attendance was up about 1.65 percent to 699 million for the first 25 weeks, after a sharp decline the year before."

  • YouTube saves a sitcom; Bill Carter reports.

Michael Tully on Sujewa Ekanayake's Date Number One: "The film is about as charming as they come... Sujewa presents a world in which cultures don't clash, they mesh."

"In my view, the Dardennes' films are not satisfying artistic works," writes David Walsh at the WSWS. "I've found each to be largely dull (despite the feverish undercurrent), dramatically unconvincing and strangely unmoving. Moreover, their obsessive attention to the particular (exemplified by the irritating and intrusive camera in Rosetta, which hardly leaves the central character for an instant) at the expense of the social and historical context ultimately provides a distorted picture of contemporary life. It diverts attention from the structures responsible for human suffering and creates the impression, inadvertently or not, that the blame for social ills lies at least in part with their victims."

Private "In Private, the family whose home is taken over is in a state of crisis; and it is a crisis that becomes daily life." Daniel Garrett considers Saverio Costanzo's film and its critical reception in the Compulsive Reader. More from acquarello.

What, in "the prolific, constant outpouring of films," was Fassbinder analyzing? "Not only the vast amorphous subject of 'German history' or 'the repressed emotions of the postwar Germans,' but Fassbinder himself, his childhood and early life," Justin Vicari in the most recent issue of Postmodern Culture. Via wood s lot.

Nick Davis: "Ingmar Bergman's 1968 film Shame presents itself in as un-Brechtian a style as it possibly could, but the intelligence and the inclusiveness with which it examines war as a social and human condition are very nearly on a par with Brecht's."

Leo Goldsmith at Not Coming to a Theater Near You: "In spite of Antonioni's admonitions of Americans and their reactions to his work, it would seem that The Passenger is a film that should be taken literally. Its internal semiology about identity and meaning is literalized onscreen: Locke's own boredom and ennui matches up with the boredom and ennui that the film evokes in its audience." This follows a take on Zabriskie Point. Also, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is "the most misunderstood of Lynch's films, the bleakest and most unrelenting, but in many ways also the most human and understanding." (Related: Joe Bowman.) While you're there, see Ian Johnston on The Chess Players.

David Pratt-Robson turns up some "Notes for a rather large essay on Michelangelo Antonioni."

Remaining "Tracking Shots" in the Voice: Scott Foundas on Say Uncle and Bill Gallo on Waist Deep ("a modest title for a film by people who are up to their eyeballs in crap," growls Armond White in the New York Press).

Back in December, Filmbrain expressed his concern that Armond White's criticism has recently been heading off into, shall we say, worrisome directions; on Thursday Filmbrain called him out for well and truly crossing the line between film criticism and "knee-jerk reactionary political diatribe."

Jameson Kowalczyk talks with Michael Winterbottom about The Road to Guantánamo for Ioncinema. Via They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?

Tim Adams on Love/Death: The Tristan Project: "[Bill] Viola has been compared with many old masters, from Titian to Rembrandt, but really he is a contemporary pre-Raphaelite, intent on cleansing the art world of its obsessions with trivia, parody and disgust by finding meaning and even transcendence in form and color."

Also in the Observer:

Beowulf & Grendel Bill Gallo in the SF Weekly: "If nothing else, give the makers of Beowulf & Grendel high marks for boldness, and for a certain playful irreverence. It's a good bet that today's moviegoers have all the respect in the world for eighth-century poetry, Norse legend, and the tenets of early Christianity, but the real attraction of the film might be summed up in the casual observation of an iron-helmeted warrior who, in this version of the tale, has been sent on a search-and-destroy mission against the hero's giant adversary, Grendel: 'I tell ya,' he says, 'this troll must be one tough prick.'"

At Kamera, Antonio Pasolini talks with Ira Sachs about Forty Shades of Blue (related: David Gritten's review in the Telegraph, Anthony Quinn's in the Independent and Steve Rose's in the Guardian) and reviews The Cave of the Yellow Dog. Related: Wendy Ide talks with Byambasuren Davaa for the London Times.

"As my way of celebrating the 100th birthday of Anthony Mann I finally got around to seeing two of Mann's noir films." Peter Nellhaus on Railroaded and T-Men.

Edward Copeland revisits The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie: "[W]hat definitely stood the test of time was the Oscar-winning performance of the great Maggie Smith."

Paul Malcolm in the LA Weekly: "There've been a lot of high-profile band documentaries in the past few years (DiG!, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, I'm Trying to Break Your Heart, etc), but director Tim Irwin's We Jam Econo (2005) is different in that Irwin's subject is the Minutemen, the greatest band in the history of the world."

"What's better than a feature-length zombie movie written, directed, shot, and edited by a determined 12-year-old girl?" asks Marrit Ingman. "Perhaps nothing. But Emily Hagins's Pathogen, which premiered this spring at the Alamo Drafthouse, has spawned Zombie Girl: The Movie, a charming and thoughtful feature-length documentary about Hagins and her magnum opus." Also in the Austin Chronicle, Shawn Badgley on Greenaway: The Early Films and Jim Caligiuri on Fallen Angel and all things Gram Parsons.

"Our experience of adventure has become so debased and secondhand that one cannot even use the word 'extreme' anymore without a roll of the eyes," writes David Fellerath in the Independent Weekly. "But, in the kind of movie that seems to come stumbling out of the world's most difficult terrain every year or so, Mountain Patrol: Kekexili succeeds in taking us where few men and even fewer women ever dare to tread."

Wetback "An estimated 3000 people attempt to sneak across the US border from Latin America every day," notes Jim Ridley in the Nashville Scene. "Of those, some 300 succeed. Whether you find that statistic sobering because of the illegal immigrants who made it - or because of the uncertain fates of the 2700 who failed - an outstanding documentary called Wetback makes for essential viewing as debate rages over policing the US-Mexico border."

Peter Suderman: "I'm thoroughly convinced that David Fincher is one of if not the single most important directors working today." Also: "Band of Outsiders is a reckless romp that careens through its 96 minutes with the same youthful dramatic streak as its three leads. Tragic, funny, and shockingly free-wheeling in its stylistics, it swerves and zooms with unhinged juvenile vigor."

Duncan Shepherd in the San Diego Reader on Army of Shadows: "[I]t's safe to say that this is a Melville film for people who want more overt 'substance,' more basis in reality, and above all more virtue in their outlaws."

In the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Johnny Ray Huston recommends The Death of Mr Lazarescu.

Stefanie Marsh talks with Bob Hoskins for the London Times.

Ryan Gilbey in the New Statesman: "If there's a more joyful film this summer than Dave Chappelle's Block Party, I'll eat my sunlounger." More from Steve Rose in the Guardian. Related: James Mottram interviews Michel Gondry.

The Telegraph remembers documentary filmmaker Kenneth Griffith: "He specialised in contentious films about British imperial history, and he invariably challenged orthodox views, particularly with regard to Ireland, South Africa and India."

Up-n-coming:

The Last Station

Did you know this? Andrew O'Hehir at Salon: "A Prairie Home Companion is now such a big hit ($12.6 million and counting) that dozens of theaters across the country are holding Rocky Horror-style singalong screenings. Yes, that's unbelievably dorky and sweet, and no, I'm not making it up."

"The hope for a brighter future for independent film, I believe, lies in online distribution," writes Daniel Nemet-Nejat in a well-considered entry: "[T]he opportunity is there to create an aesthetic online that is fruitful both artistically and economically."

The title of Girish's latest entry, once again sparking lively discussion, says it all: "Theater vs Home."

Dennis Cozzalio presents "Professor Julius Kelp's Endless Summer Chemistry Test." First question: "Does film best tell the truth (Godard) or tell lies (De Palma) at 24 frames per second?"

24 Lies a Second founder Peet Gelderblom starts a blog: Lost in Negative Space.

Online fiddling around tip. An "Indie Film Crossword Puzzle" at indieWIRE.

Online listening tip. Ken Loach at the Barbican. Via the Filter.

Online listening tips. Indieville podcasts.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:54 PM

Fests and events, 7/3.

Angus McBean: Portraits Jonathan Jones previews two related exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery for the Guardian, Angus McBean: Portraits and The Beatles on the Balcony (both are open Wednesday through October 22); the photographer "was an extremely adept translator of surrealist art into popular culture."

"If ever there was a time for the anti-authoritarian, Dadaist wordplay, and surreal plotting that was and is the essence of Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and sometimes Zeppo, it's now," declares Marc Savlov in the Austin Chronicle. "Let the starched shirts and petty dictators of daily life take note, then: Texas Hillel and the San Antonio Street Cafe are screening the 12 major films in the Marx canon Wednesdays throughout the summer in conjunction with a Marxian memorabilia and artwork exhibit on loan from Houston-based collector Morris Weiss."

Karlovy Vary Film Festival Boyd van Hoeij covers the opening of the Karlovy Vary Film Festival (through July 8) for Cineuropa, where you'll also find a special report on the ten young European filmmakers highlight in the sidebar section, "Variety Critics' Choice: Europe Now."

Brian Brooks: "Twenty-six international film selections that previously premiered at major film festivals worldwide are slated to screen at the Toronto International Film Festival, taking place September 7 - 16."

James Spooner's Afro-Punk "goes one better than other ID docs," writes Ed Halter in the Voice. "Since many of its subjects confess to having been the only black kid at the rock show, it's less a portrait of a community than an audiovisual means to conjure one into being.... Spooner examines the past in greater detail in his "Afro-Punk Weekend" program for BAM." Through tomorrow.

Thursday in DC: The Proper Care & Feeding of an American Messiah.

As this year's Midnight Mass series kicks off in San Francisco, SFist talks with Peaches Christ.

Twitch's Todd has been writing guide entries for Fantasia, "North America's Premiere Genre Film Festival," opening in Montréal on Thursday and running through July 24. More on the fest from Dan Mucha at Facets Features: "More fun than Cannes, undoubtedly!"

Looking back at the New York Asian Film Festival at Cinema Strikes Back: David Austin on Funky Forest: The First Contact, "a completely bizarre mélange of sketch comedy, non-sequitur humor, and freak-out special effects. And dancing, lots and lots of dancing. Needless to say, strange dancing." (Trailers.) More Cinema Strikes Back coverage: a roundup of days 4 through 10 and a review of Beetle, the Horn King.

Darcy Paquet's collected all the essays he's contributed to the programs of the Far East Film Festival in Udine on one page at Koreanfilm.org.

If you're planning on entering the Screenwriting Expo 5 Screenplay Competition, you have until August 7.

At a screening of Prisoner 345 at the recently wrapped Sydney Film Festival, Mamdouh Habib was spotted in the audience and invited to speak about his reaction to the doc about the "US imprisonment of Sami Al-Haji, a 36-year-old Al Jazeera cameraman currently jailed without charge in Guantánamo Bay," as Richard Phillips reports at the WSWS. "Habib, an Australian citizen, was illegally arrested in Pakistan in October 2001, sent by US authorities to Egypt for six months, where he was tortured, forced to sign false confessions, and then transported to Guantánamo. With active political support from the Howard government, which claimed his detention was necessary to fight Islamic terrorism, he remained in Guantánamo for almost three years, before being repatriated without charge to Australia in late January 2005." He reminded the audience of the open-ended fate of yet another prisoner: "Howard says that David Hicks [a 30-year-old Australian who has been incarcerated in Guantánamo since early 2002] is in good health and there are no problems. This is another lie. He said the same things about me." Related: Steve Weinberg in In These Times.

Take a look at the official posters for the 2006 Dakino Film Festival in Romania over at Modern Fabulosity.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:52 AM

Online viewing tips, 7/3.

The finalists in the 2006 SXSWclick! competition are now on view.

Cash Cab Premiere contributor and Cinephiliac Aaron Hillis and the world-famous Filmbrain take a ride in the Cash Cab. Will they go all the way?

Zach Campbell: "Walerian Borowczyk's short film Escargot de Venus (1975) is an interesting work for its associations above all."

Brendon Connelly, who's got the links, explains why you want to see Richard Williams's The Thief and the Cobbler.

The Subway Home David Enos's video for Casiotone for the Painfully Alone's "The Subway Home," via Brian Darr's excellent entry on cut-out and other Anxious Animation.

Watch Chris Marker's La Jetée at pas au-delà. There are no subtitles here, so you might want to pick up the script first. Via wood s lot.

Wheeler Winston Dixon, excerpted and annotated at sharpeworld.

"Experimental Cinema 101": Joe Bowman watches Kenneth Anger and Maya Deren.

Ronald Reagan vs John Cassavetes. Via Greg Allen.

Raumpatrouille At Boing Boing, Xeni Jardin's got clips and other paraphernalia (more) related to Raumpatrouille: Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffs Orion, a German sci-fi series originally broadcast in 1966.

Paul Fraser's Scummy Man, inspired by the Arctic Monkeys' "The Sun Goes Down" and via popnutten.

Mike Goubeaux's video for Summerbirds in the Cellar's "Trains," winner of the Scion xPress Fest.

The first short films developed by AtomFilms Studio, a development house launched at Sundance, dedicated to producing content solely for online distribution: Game Over, InSex, New Boobs and Dog Years 2.

Al Gore on Charlie Rose, talking about An Inconvenient Truth. Related: Futurama's Bender in a trailer. For more on the film and a serious consideration of carbon offsets, see Carlos Rojas at the naked gaze.

Corey Boutilier talks with indieWIRE's Brian Brooks.

The promo for "Blanks on a Blank: A Filmmaking Challenge Inspired by Snakes on a Plane." Register now and complete your 2- to 5-minute film by August 3. Related: David Usborne tells the real movie's story again in the Independent and Brendon Connelly recommends the book. Seriously.

Screenhead points to a Scientology Orientation video: "Can you even go to the movies any more knowing about half of the people you're watching up there watched either this or something like it and said to themselves, 'yep, sounds reasonable'?"

Meantime, on a sad note, Screenhead sings goodbye. David Carr has the background in the New York Times, which, oddly enough, has just given television critic Virginia Heffernan blogging space to do something similar (but also not), Screens.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:20 AM | Comments (1)

DVDs, 7/3.

Star Spangled to Death Don't usually separate DVD reviews from everything else, but there've been a few reviews and roundups worth noting lately, starting with J Hoberman: "Star Spangled to Death is a vast, ironic pageant of 20th-century American history and consciousness in which the artist broods on human programming, military triumphalism, and - most insistently - American racism." Also in the Voice, Joshua Land on Valley of the Dolls and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

David Austin rounds up Cinema Strikes Back's "DVD Picks of the Week": Two by Sogo Ishii, Burst City and Electric Dragon 80,000 Volts; the "utterly bizarre" Gwendoline; The Devil's Sword, an Indonesian fantasy; two poliziotteschi from NoShame, Convoy Busters and Colt 38 Special Squad; two from Kinji Fukasaku, Cops vs Thugs and Yakuza Graveyard; and Art of the Devil 2. More on that one from Todd at Twitch.

Speaking of Todd: "Though the film features some truly remarkable stop motion and low budget effects work - [Dennis] Muren's talents are glaringly obvious even at this early stage - Equinox is far more interesting for what it represents than as an actual film, a fact that the film makers themselves implicitly acknowledge as they gleefully skewer their own work in the audio commentary." Also, Death Trance, with Tak Sakaguchi.

Kill Your Idols Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker, Caroline Bermudez's quick Pitchfork interview with Scott Crary about his Kill Your Idols, out on DVD in the fall. Ed Gonzalez at Slant: "The film's construction isn't groundbreaking but the shrill freakshow of talking heads is revealing, conveying how revolutionary spirits can spread their own form of oppressive bile."

As for new DVD reviews at Slant, you'll find Eric Henderson on Koko: A Talking Gorilla; Jeremiah Kipp on Béla Tarr's Almanac of Fall and Dead Man's Bluff; Ed Gonzalez on Basic Instinct 2, Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School and Beyond the Rocks.

In the New York Times, Dave Kehr succinctly assesses the career of Clark Gable; a footnote. Also, Frank DeCaro on the season of I Love Lucy that might not have been. Related: Greenbriar Picture Shows: "Some Good Gables On DVD" and "Lucy and Desi in the Movies," parts 1 and 2.

"This May Be the Best DVD Week Ever!" declares Peter Sobczynski at Hollywood Bitchslap.

At Quick Stop Entertainment, DK Holm tells the fun-to-read story behind the original Omen and reviews the unrated version of the new Hills Have Eyes.

The Stop Smiling DVD roundup: The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, I Wake Up Screaming, Oh! Calcutta! and Compulsion. Also, Jared Rapfogel on Modern Romance, arguing that, along with Real Life and Lost in America, Albert Brooks's early works "are among the greatest American comedies of the last forty years, a trilogy of poker-faced, self-lacerating dissections of the upper-middle-class American male psyche."

At Reverse Shot: Nick Pinkerton on I Wake Up Screaming and Justin Stewart on The Complete Mr Arkadin.

Micah at Dumb Distraction: "So what's the message of Abar, the First Black Superman? Given the repeated use of MLK's speech (as that final scene plays they use the 'Little Black Girls Holding Hands With Little White Girls' bit) you'd think it'd be something about race equality. But... all the white people in the movie apparently died, and the one white person who potentially redeemed herself turned out to actually be black, so... Kill Whitey? I dunno, it's a bit of a mixed bag."

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Hart Sharp Video will be launching a line of docs called "Morgan Spurlock Presents...". Selections will be based on "distinct social relevance and importance to society and the world today."

Morton & Hayes Vince Keenan presents his list of "DVDemands."

Tim Lucas: "Since my earlier coverage of the Velvet Underground and Captain Beefheart releases in the series, I've been continuing to follow Sexy Intellectual's "Under Review" titles with keen interest. The latest two I've seen are devoted to the recording careers of Kate Bush and The Smiths."

"Most major filmmakers have made trilogies, but the greatest, perhaps, is [Satyajit] Ray's." Philip French in the Observer on the Apu Trilogy.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:54 AM

From Korea, 7/3.

Dasepo Naughty Girls Starting with a whopping DVD roundup, X has a slew of fresh Korean film-related entries at Twitch: Im Sang-soo's next project will be A Good Woman in Paris and a teaser for Lee Jae-yong's Dasepo Naughty Girls. But the biggest batch of news is gathered in the freshly updated Chungmuro Daily: "Be it news updates, DVD rankings, reactions to the latest Korean movies released in theaters, you'll find something new every day here. And, although it'll take a while to develop the way our K-Film Databank and K-Drama Hub have, in a couple of weeks you should see more content and more variety."

Bloody Aria Kyu Hyun Kim: "Shot in grimy HD video with just a handful of cast members, Bloody Aria is guaranteed to deeply divide non-Korean viewers into two opposing camps, as much as it has for the domestic audience and critics. Some will no doubt revile it as a premier example of Korean cinema's gloating indulgence in nauseating depictions of physical violence and horrible treatment of women... Others might champion it as one of the more honest cinematic statements about the vicious cycle of violence, an unflinching snapshot of degraded human souls hobbling toward, not redemption, but the Nietzschean abyss in which they see shiny-black reflections of their own bloodshot, insanely grinning faces."

Hanbando Also at Koreanfilm.org, Nils Clauss on Papa, Daddy, Father and Darcy Paquet on Hanbando, "one of the two major releases of the summer, together with Bong Joon-ho's The Host."

Meanwhile, the quota of domestic films screened in South Korea, regarded by many as instrumental in the Korean wave of recent years, was officially cut on Saturday, but the protests, as the AP's Kelly Olsen reports, are as vigorous as ever.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:50 AM

AICN @ 10.

AICN @ 10 Ain't It Cool News, the site bemoaned as the end of film criticism by some cinephiles (even as they check their AICN RSS feed, no doubt), turns ten today and, with Moriarty as MC, they've chosen a most unusual but highly fun way to celebrate; regular contributors and guests list and annotate movies in response to Moriarty's question, "Imagine you're trying to explain America to someone. What ten films would you show them, and why?"

Before all that, though, Moriarty writes, "When people talk about Ain't It Cool as a single thing or a single opinion or a single personality, they're missing the point. It's not." True enough now, but there was a time (and heavens, July 3, 1996 really does seem like a long time ago) before MySpace, before blogs, before broadband was, like running water, taken for granted, when zinesters had the whole World Wide Web pretty much to themselves. "People talk all the time about the good old days of AICN," writes Harry Knowles further down that same page. "The wild west of the internet. When we used to call studio execs out by name for their shitty films.... Well - personally - I still think we do that."

Of course, it's less the take-downs than the occasional fits of rah-rah film geek fandom, the rare but nonetheless damaging faux reviews and such that have ruffled the feathers of those who would like to see online criticism taken seriously, especially now that film criticism is seeing fewer and fewer column inches in print. But all that aside, when you think of AICN, you think of sheer enthusiasm, a raw love for movies that anyone who shares it, in whatever way, can only hope to see thrive on for another ten years and beyond. Happy #10, AICN!

Posted by dwhudson at 6:55 AM | Comments (1)

Previewing Pirates.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest The Guardian's Steve Rose on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: "After flirting with Looney Tunes comedy, Hollywood pastiche, Peter Jackson-style grandiosity, and seafront pantomime, it eventually becomes clear what course the Pirates franchise has really plotted: a packed universe of characters; epic action; strange lands; freakish monsters; a curiously sexless central couple. This isn't an updated swashbuckler, it's a backdated Star Wars!" The bottom line: "Despite all the fits, starts, and flaws, there's enough invention and energy here to make you want to see the next installment."

Johnny Depp has cancelled all one-on-one international interviews - except for the one with Chrissy Iley. "[M]aybe it was because the last time we met, I gave him a dildo named Johnny. There was a reason: he had just done The Libertine, playing the sexually omnivorous Earl of Rochester. 'It was a gorgeous gift,' he says smiling naughtily. 'A great gift.'" As for Keith Richards, who'll appear in Pirates 3, "We did get together in a hotel room and dress up as pirates. He looked beautiful in the clothes and his hair was in dreads. Gorgeous! Just gorgeous!"

Depp evidently tossed his appointment calendar after he'd talked with the Telegraph's John Hiscock. All he toys with here is the idea of doing Hamlet "in a small theater on a small stage and it will have to be very, very soon because I'm getting a little long in the tooth for it."

Updated through 7/5.

Though David Poland finds Pirates about 30 minutes too long, it's "easily the best studio confection of the year."

At Slant, Nick Schager writes that it "ultimately stays just afloat thanks to Depp's uniquely idiosyncratic scalawag, the actor imbuing his preening, loose-limbed pirate with a drunken dancer's grace and a combination of colorful Walt Disney charm and rascally Chuck Jones mischievousness."

"In Dead Man's Chest, [Mackenzie] Crook reprises his role as the pirate Ragetti, as thick as the plank he makes people walk, and cursed with a wooden eye 'that does splinter something terrible'." Adrian Turpin talks with him for the London Times.

Kirk Honeycutt in the Hollywood Reporter: "The filmmakers seem cheerfully resolved that narrative never get in the way of buccaneer fun."

The Wicked Wench Updates, 7/4: Jeffrey Wells, who really, really hates this movie, gleefully points to Todd McCarthy's pan in Variety and David Ansen's in Newsweek.

Offline fiddling around tip. From the Disney Experience, a paper model of the Wicked Wench. Download, print, slice, glue, voila. Via Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing.

Updates, 7/5: At Quick Stop Entertainment, DK Holm sends up a red flare: "Please do stay through the credits. Not only do you get to hear more of Hans Zimmer's score, but also there is a narrative surprise in the final five seconds." Otherwise, "I guess in the eyes of corporate media we are all seven-years-old now, a perhaps justified assumption. For me, the film just wasn't funny." What's more, "Pirates doesn't conclude. It just stops. It closes on a cliffhanger, while bringing back a major character from the previous film."

"Johnny Depp's foppish, mercurial, sexually ambiguous and probably very smelly scoundrel is the morally fluid, completely unreliable soul of the film, not to mention a welcome change from the drippy, neurotic heroes that have come to define what it means to be super in the movies lately," writes Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times. That said, "It's normal to expect some bloating with age, but by the time the second rolling waterwheel gag comes along, I found myself pining for the Shaker-like simplicity of, I don't know, Versailles.... At half the running time, it would have made for an amusing time-killer; as it is — no matter how clever, energetic and beautifully designed — it borders on waste."

Related: Greg Braxton rounds up the summer's villains.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:48 AM

July 2, 2006

Iraq docs.

The Blood of My Brother "Lately, movie commentators have wondered whether audiences aren't tired of the material, as if reports from Iraq were just another genre, like Adam Sandler flicks or men-in-tights extravaganzas," writes Nathan Lee in a review of The Blood of My Brother for the New York Times. "The only question worth asking is what it will take to render this cinema obsolete." For the micro-genre of docs on the cost of the war paid by Iraqi civilians, it may be a while.

Joshua Land in the Voice: "[T]he subtitle, A Story of Death in Iraq, concisely captures its core subject: the brute facts of grief, suffering, and death in wartime." And Noel Murray at the AV Club: "Whatever The Blood Of My Brother's journalistic weaknesses, it's valuable as yet another view of what may end up being the most thoroughly documented war ever waged."

"[T]he film takes itself almost too seriously to bear. But if you will allow me, I intend that as a compliment," writes The Reeler. "[I]t is the first Iraq doc I have seen in which death permeates every frame."

It "captures a ground-level view of the sweat, dust, danger and chaos that typify daily life in American-occupied Iraq," adds Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "Powerful as this film often is, it's also a bummer and something of an existential or psychological dead end: Do the Iraqis hate us because their lives have become boring, depressing and full of hassle?"

"It's not only the war in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan and more wars are coming. I am one of those Americans who doesn't feel that my views or interests are reflected by either of the two major political parties. But instead of sitting back and feeling hopeless I prefer to go out into the world and experience it myself, to see for myself what's really taking place." James Longley talks with the WSWS's Joanne Laurier about his award-winning doc, Iraq in Fragments; he's now working on a fourth segment of the film.

The Boston Phoenix's Peter Keough finds The War Tapes "the most harrowing, revelatory, and dubious documentary I have yet seen about the war in Iraq. Why dubious? It's the editing part I suspect, since the three accounts piece together to form a devastating indictment of the war and those responsible, a point of view that might not reflect that of the soldiers themselves." More from NPR's Michelle Norris.

Online viewing tip. Promo for Iraq: The Bloody Circus.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:55 PM | Comments (3)

Lana Turner Blog-a-Thon.

It was Thursday, but well worth catching up with now, starting with John McElwee at Greenbriar Picture Shows:

Modern Screen: Lana Turner

The ones who could tell us all about Lana Turner and what she meant to her once wildly enthusiastic fan base are a dwindling lot of world war veterans - the men who served and worshipped Lana, and the women who crowded her movies stateside and lived vicariously through her romances, both onscreen and off. It's easy for our generation to regard her as a studio manufactured joke, for we never experienced the anxieties that a star like Lana was there to alleviate. She was comfort food with a brief shelf life, but like strawberries fresh from the market, she had an intoxicating flavor that just can't be experienced so many years after the initial purchase, and a movie like Marriage is a Private Affair can give but the barest hint of what it must have been like to taste Lana in her prime.

Flickhead: "Her thick-lipped, doe-eyed carnality carried the baby fat voluptuousness of Bernadette Peters, but one doubts Lana possessed the self-assurance to comprehend and arrest the caricature and self-parody that lay at her disposal."

The Self-Styled Siren: "As much as the Siren wants to believe in universal sisterhood, there is no denying that dazzling beauty can make a woman off-putting to her own sex. But from the beginning Lana didn't arouse that kind of hostility from other women, instead suggesting the sort of goddess who would still be kind to the ugly duckling. Women liked her."

Michael Guillen: "Even as a teenager my prurience was piqued by Lana's voluptuous body in compromised situations, tethered by middle class ethics, chafed by small town gossip, in love and ravaged by men she shouldn't be in love with, irresistible, a femme fatale, an unwilling adulteress with desires beyond her control. Little did I know that Lana Turner's personal life was no less dramatic than her roles on screen."

Richard Gibson proposes a "dream double bill": Imitation of Life and The Merchant of Four Seasons.

Stillettos and Sneakers: "Being told most of her life as a child that she was 'fat' and 'funny looking,' her love affair with the camera was strained at best in the beginning. She had this in common with her early classmates on the MGM lot: both Elizabeth Taylor and Judy Garland."

Peter Nellhaus: "Of the many films starring Lana Turner, The Sea Chase is atypical, but it is representative of the state of her career at the time."

For That Little Round-Headed Boy, Somewhere I'll Find You is "an unheralded classic, even more so when you take into account the sad, real-life tragedy underneath it." Even so, it's also "fun, flirty and compulsively watchable." Take note, too, of his P.S.

Nice pix at Agence eureka.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:47 PM

Lists, 7/2.

Nathaniel R's "Actors of the 'Aughts'" countdown is now complete. He's named his own top 100; now you can vote in the readers' poll as well.

Cahiers: Zidane "Soccer works beautifully on film, because it combines one-on-one drama with physical grace, individual quirks with cooperative accomplishment, history with emotion." Bilge Ebiri lists four great examples. Related: Susan Gerhard rounds up more recommendations at SF360 for both online and offline viewing. Meanwhile, France upsets Brazil and, in Cahiers du cinéma, Cyril Neyrat reviews Zidane, a Portrait of the 21st Century.

Patrick Kennelly's "Best Films of 2006 (so far...)."

Variety's Timothy M Gray is already looking ahead to the fall release season, to the Oscar contenders.

Nathan Rabin presents the AV Club's weekly list: "Six Movies That Helped Kill Disco."

Update, 7/3: A good one from That Little Round-Headed Boy: "Lights, camera, songs! The 25 tunes I discovered at the movies."

Posted by dwhudson at 3:36 PM

Wrapping LAFF.

The Los Angeles Film Festival wraps tonight and Anne Thompson's got two good and swift reports on Awards Night and points to Jeffrey Wells's entry on James Ellroy's appearance at the fest, where he talked about The Black Dahlia.

Deliver Us From Evil As part of indieWIRE's coverage of the fest: "Gretchen and Deliver Us From Evil Win Big Award$," reported Eugene Hernandez last week.

In the Los Angeles Times, Gina Piccalo has a solid backgrounder on one: "Deliver Us comes years after the priest sex abuse scandals broke in Los Angeles and other cities, but [director and investigative news producer Amy] Berg feels there's too little said about the church's reluctance to take responsibility for the crimes." For a sharp and succinct review, turn to Brian Flemming.

Leonard Klady profiles Berg for Movie City News, where David Poland reviews the film. Klady also talks with Stanley Nelson (Jonestown: The Life and Death of People's Temple) and Derek Sieg (Swedish Auto).

Doug Cummings has a sterling entry on the panel, "Unshown Cinema: Inside the World of 'The Films That Got Away'."

Los Muertos Andre Richter: "Los Muertos has the advantage of making all other films seem false, another inspiration to start anew.... [Lisandro] Alonso is the only filmmaker of his generation, plus granted 15 years older or younger, who cares about the green of the earth. Positif called Alonso's way of filmmaking 'haughty.' While watching Los Muertos, I suddenly thought 'hardly any filmmakers give a shit about people.'"

Back to the LAT: Rachel Abramowitz on CC Goldwater's Mr Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater, "an unabashedly admiring — though not wide-eyed — attempt to reclaim her grandfather's legacy, and to reconcile the man she adored — the avid gadgeteer, ham-radio operator, aviator, and truly talented photographer of American Indians — with the controversial political figure, often heralded as the father of the American conservative movement." And two bloggish collections of entrues by LAT critics, "The Critics Speak" and "Reporter's Notebook."

AJ Schnack has loads of observations and pix.

Peter Martin talks with Last Rites filmmakers Duane Stinnett and Krissann Shipley for Twitch. Also, reviews of My Mother and Her Guest and The Wild Blue Yonder.

Quick reviews from André Soares: El Aura, Analog Days, The Lather Effect, Old Joy and Half Nelson.

Update, 7/3: Movie City News has the full list of awards.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:25 PM